Thursday Mashup (5/1/14)

May 1, 2014

voter id

  • Wonder if Voter ID is starting to “crash and burn,” people? We can only hope (here)…

    In a clear-cut victory for Wisconsin voters, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman came down on the side of foes of the state’s strict photo voter ID law Tuesday.

    In the 90-page decision, Adelman takes note of difficulties low-income citizens have in getting an ID, the cost of obtaining background documents to get an ID—such as a birth certificate—the cost of transportation to the DMV and work time lost…

    Of course, Gov. Hosni Mubarak Walker will probably appeal the ruling (and Repug Attorney General candidate Brad Schimel is trying to fundraise off the ruling as noted here).

    Not that we have anything to brag about on this subject in our beloved commonwealth of PA, of course, where Governor Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett has spent in excess of $2 million in state funds to defend voter ID (here) even though the PA Commonwealth Court recently affirmed its decision overturning it (here).

    But wait, there’s more…

  • A federal court ruled the same way about Texas’s voter ID law, one of the most restrictive in the nation (here), but the ruling was invalidated when The Supremes gutted the Voting Rights Act (yep, some nice “ROI” from The High Court of Hangin’ Judge JR to “the party of Lincoln” on that one).
  • As noted here, Judge Tim Fox of the Pulaski County Circuit Court recently struck down Arkansas’s voter ID law, quite rightly saying that it “illegally adds a requirement” voters must fulfill before going to the polls.
  • And in case anyone still had any doubt about this, conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly pointed out here that North Carolina’s law in particular was aimed at minorities (yeah I know, duuuh, though, as noted here – in a surprising development – that state’s voter ID law could actually help with voter registration in that state).
  • Here and here are links to the voter ID issue and how it is playing out across all 50 states. And as noted here, the Voting Rights Act Amendment (VRAA), introduced in the Senate by Dem Pat Leahy and in the House by Repug James Sensenbrenner, could address the voter ID issue in a bit of a favorable manner also (but good luck seeing that passed in the U.S. House as it is currently constituted; another reason to vote early and often this fall).

    david-koch-and-charles-g.-007_0
    And lest we forget, Chuck and Dave are all too happy to see voter ID enshrined all over this country (here).

  • Next, this tells us the following…

    RICHMOND — Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell has landed a job as a part-time visiting professor of government at Liberty University’s Helms School of Government, the school announced Monday.

    McDonnell (R) will serve as a guest lecturer in other professors’ government classes at the Helms School, named for former senator Jesse Helms, a Republican from North Carolina.

    Any idea on McDonnell’s “course load”? These come to mind immediately for yours truly…

  • Influence Peddling 101 – How to Receive Money, Golf Fees, Other Equipment and Luxury Plane Flights to Resorts While Alleging That No Conflict of Interest Exists
  • Returning Obstetrics to the Middle Ages – Classroom Theory and Practical Working Exercises in Administering Fetal Ultrasounds, Plunging Virginia To The Same Depths As 23 Other States Advocating The Same Barbaric Procedure
  • Male-Only Human Sexuality – The Evils of (Pro) Contraception Legalization
  • And just as a reminder, the story also tells us the following…

    McDonnell left office in January and soon after was indicted with his wife, Maureen, on federal corruption charges related to about $165,000 in luxury gifts and loans that a businessman lavished on Virginia’s first family.

    The McDonnells, who have pleaded not guilty, were in financial distress when they accepted the largess of dietary supplement maker Jonnie R. Williams Sr., and their money woes have grown as they mount a legal defense in the case, scheduled to go to trial in July. Supporters have launched a fund to pay legal bills.

    The part-time position at the Lynchburg University is not likely to bring McDonnell the big bucks he could have counted on absent the scandal. Moore declined to disclose what Liberty will pay McDonnell, once regarded as a credible contender for president in 2016.

    Also, how apropos for “vaginal ultrasound” Bob to end up at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, where approval was revoked for a Democratic Party organization on campus here (wonder if I’ll get an Email blast about a Bias Alert! from Drudge and his pals – not holding my breath on that one), and where Glenn Beck, of all people, once gave a commencement address (here).

    And the cherry on the icing on the proverbial cake is the fact that McDonnell will now reside at the Helms School of Government, named after a noted racist, anti-immigrant homophobe and chauvinist (who, along with the rest of his party, ignored the al Qaeda threat in the ’90s, as noted here – Clinton stumbled a bit on that score also, but at least he did something).

    How much do you want to bet that (assuming a Dem wins in 2016) McDonnell ends up taking a shot at the 2020 Repug presidential nomination (and no, I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence either)?

  • Continuing, I give you the latest in Repug Party hijinks over the environment (which has presented us with particularly extreme weather lately)…

    Republican lawmakers pushed back at Environmental Protection Agency Chief Gina McCarthy after she assailed critics for charging the agency with using “secret science” to support its regulations.

    Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said McCarthy is “ignoring the big picture” in her defense of the agency.

    Vitter and a majority of Republicans have continued to berate the EPA for its proposed carbon emissions limits on power plants, which they say are backed up by faulty science.

    “It is inexcusable for EPA to justify billions of dollar of economically significant regulations on science that is kept hidden from independent reanalysis and congressional oversight,” Vitter said in a statement on Monday.

    Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) echoed Vitter’s sentiment.

    “It’s disappointing that EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy continues to try to justify her agency’s use of secret science,” Smith said in a statement. “Relying on undisclosed data is not good science and not good policy.”

    OK, so “secret science” is the latest wingnut catchphrase (poll tested and approved by Frank Luntz, no doubt). Which is particularly amusing to me because, as noted here, the “science” to support EPA regulation doesn’t look very “secret” to yours truly.

    And of course Smith would protest, he who, though he routinely ignores sound climate science, once held a hearing on aliens (and no, I’m not talking about immigrants) here. And what can you say about “Diaper Dave,” who cheered the last government shutdown because it temporarily put the brakes on EPA’s ability to enforce regulations to protect our water and monitor coal and gas-fired power plants (here)?

  • Further, it looks like Joke Line is back to heap more ridicule (here)…

    Time magazine columnist Joe Klein called CNN “an embarrassment to our profession,” surprising a New York City audience on Sunday by declaring Fox News “the only option” for straight news at 6 p.m.

    “I come home, and I turn on CNN at 6 o’clock at night — because that’s something I kind of do in preparation for the 6:30 network news, to see what Wolf [Blitzer] is being really hyperbolic about — and he’s talking about the plane!” Klein lamented.

    “It is such an embarrassment to our profession that CNN has gone in the toilet the way it has,” he continued. “You know, I miss being able to turn on a straight newscast. And it turns out, the only place you can go to get one, at 6 o’clock at night, is Fox.”

    “The other option is to go to MSBNC and see the Reverend Al Sharpton, who I still consider to be a major criminal,” Klein quipped, prompting audience applause. “I mean, the guy can have a job on network TV, on an NBC cable network, and he still hasn’t apologized for Tawana Brawley? Gimme a break.”

    I cannot fathom why Klein would defend a network that was once responsible for this.

    That being said, he actually has a point about CNN and its endless coverage on Flight 370, which, horribly, I’m sure is at the ocean floor somewhere. At this point, I cannot imagine where else it could be; if it had been hijacked somehow, we surely would have heard at this point.

    And not for a second am I going to defend Al Sharpton over the Tawana Brawley stuff; I don’t know if Sharpton ever apologized for it either. However, making the leap from shameless self-promoter at the expense of a young girl who apparently didn’t know better to a “major criminal” staggers the imagination. And there’s a reason why I include his videos at the site I link to from here, and that is because I find his commentary to be fundamentally sound and factually correct. When Klein or anyone else has a factual criticism to offer (and I’ll admit that MSNBC overall flubbed some of the Trayvon Martin stuff), then I’ll definitely give it a fair hearing.

    Also, when it comes to whether or not our supposedly elite journalists are doing their jobs, how does Klein account for this (and who knew besides me that Megyn Kelly of Fix Noise, for example, was a corporate attorney as opposed to a journalist, and she’s on the network Joe loves in bleeping prime time).

    Klein’s call for an “apology” is funny, though, when you consider that, to my knowledge, he never apologized for this.

  • Finally, Mikey the Beloved is back with another opinion column for the benefit of his PR factory (here)…

    Increasing and securing our investment in infrastructure is an investment in our country’s future. I am pleased to have worked across the aisle with Congressman John Delaney in supporting the Partnership to Build America Act (HR 2084). The bill will restore solvency to the Highway Trust Fund by revenues from repatriated earnings as a funding mechanism while the debate continues around ensuring long term solvency of the Fund. These efforts have merit, particularly if combined with other fiscally prudent ways of increasing infrastructure investment.

    The first question I have is why it took so damn long for Mikey or anyone else in his party (and the same goes for Delaney, to be fair) to say anything about HR 2084, seeing as how it was introduced about a year ago (here…and yes, I know the answer is that this is an election year).

    However, the more you look into this particular piece of legislation, the more problems you discover as far as I’m concerned. The bill establishes a government corporation headed by a board of trustees, appointed by the president (yeah, as if that will be OK with this Congress – the Teahadists are probably writing hate-filled blog posts and working on their misspelled signs even as I write this, and the bill hasn’t even come up for a vote yet).

    Also…

    The bill also “establish(es) the American Infrastructure Fund, to provide bond guarantees and make loans to States, local governments, and non-profit infrastructure providers for investments in certain infrastructure projects, and to provide equity investments in such projects, and for other purposes.”

    So it looks like the states will be responsible for funding infrastructure projects with minimal (at best) federal oversight (and yes, I realize that, since we’re talking about a Republican congress, they don’t want the federal government to be a “player” in this stuff at all, damn the consequences).

    Here is my concern: suppose the infrastructure projects blow up and the financial obligations cannot be satisfied. Is this yet another “bubble to bust” boondoggle where taxpayers will be called upon again to bail out the Fund if the infrastructure projects are cancelled because of, say, cost overruns (and another well-done Matt Taibbi comment on this whole potential mess will be written someday)?

    And did I mention that, according to Govtrack, the bill has about a 3 percent chance of being enacted anyway? More on the bill is here.

    Meanwhile (from here)…

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration sent a four-year, $302 billion transportation plan to Congress Tuesday, hoping to jump-start a national debate on how to repair and replace the nation’s aging infrastructure while accommodating the needs of a growing population.

    Action is urgently needed because the federal Highway Trust Fund is expected to run dry by late August, said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. Unless Congress acts to shore up the fund, transportation aid to states will be held up and workers laid off at construction sites across the country.

    President Barack Obama has emphasized infrastructure spending throughout his presidency as a means to spur job growth and increase economic competitiveness, but the bill is the first detailed, long-term transportation bill his administration has sent to Congress.

    There isn’t much time for Congress to act before the trust fund can no longer meet its obligations, especially in the hyper-partisan atmosphere of an election year. Many transportation insiders predict Congress will wind up doing what it has done repeatedly over the past five years — dip into the general treasury for enough money for to keep programs going a few weeks or a few months, at which point the exercise will have to be repeated all over again.

    But keeping highway and transit aid constantly teetering on the edge of insolvency discourages state and local officials from moving ahead with bigger and more important projects that take many years to build. In 2012, Congress finally pieced together a series of one-time tax changes and spending cuts to programs unrelated to transportation in order to keep the trust fund solvent for about two years. Now, the money is nearly gone.

    So instead of passing the Obama bill, it looks like Mikey and his pals (including Delaney, who apparently isn’t much of a progressive, though he’s definitely an improvement over the odious Repug Roscoe Bartlett, who formerly held the seat) are cooking up this new scam that could come back and bite us one day. All just so they can say that they didn’t raise taxes or fees, or something (if doing this right means paying a few cents more a gallon for gas, for example, to me, that makes a hell of a lot more sense than this idiotic funding mechanism).

    All of this and much more is a reason to support Kevin Strouse for Congress (to help, click here).


  • Friday Mashup (2/21/14)

    February 21, 2014
  • Jonah Goldberg, apparently vying for the title of Most Idiotic Pundit in the Universe, inflicts the following while bashing Number 44 overall for a variety of alleged reasons (here)…

    The Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to treat carbon dioxide as a “pollutant” is an outrageous expansion of executive power. But Obama (didn’t) tout that as a bullet point (last week at a Democratic retreat); he let the EPA take the political heat for that decision a while ago.

    So much stoo-pid, so little time – as noted here

    In March 2012 the Environmental Protection Agency released a draft rule limiting carbon pollution from new power plants. This standard was promulgated in response to the 2007 Supreme Court ruling requiring the agency to regulate carbon dioxide emissions under the Clean Air Act if it found that carbon dioxide emissions endangered public health and the environment. The agency published such a finding in 2009, noting that carbon-pollution-associated climate change will increase the frequency of unusually higher temperatures and heat waves.

    Increased temperatures can increase the risk for formation of ground level ozone or smog. Breathing ozone may lead to shortness of breath and chest pain; increased risk of asthma attacks; increased susceptibility to respiratory infections; need for medical treatment and for hospitalization for people with lung diseases, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; and premature death. Children and senior citizens are most vulnerable to harm from smog.

    The Environmental Protection Agency held several listening sessions while drafting the proposal, held two public hearings on the proposed rule, and extended the comment period to 73 days. Almost 3 million comments were sent to the agency in favor of reducing carbon pollution from both new and existing power plants—a record for an Environmental Protection Agency rule proposal. The agency is now in the midst of finalizing its rule.

    Actually, based on this, the EPA finalized the rule last December 19th; carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology is “decades old,” though apparently it is still a relatively expensive technology (don’t know enough to say whether or not it should be subsidized by the federal government or if it is already, but if it isn’t, why not?).

    Of course, if Goldberg had an inclination towards actual journalism instead of hack punditry, he might be disposed to try and find that out (yes I know – if I ruled the world, every day would be the first day of spring…).

  • Next, I give you the latest from Repug U.S. Senator John Barrasso via Fix Noise in the “Let’s Bash Number 44” slug fest (here, opining about the fifth anniversary of the stimulus last Monday)…

    President Obama said that he was going to use the money to fund “shovel-ready” construction projects. Many of those projects stalled because of burdensome red tape, and Washington regulations. A couple of years later, the president even joked that “shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected.”

    In response, to give you an idea of how many jobs were saved or created the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, I would ask that you read the following from here.

    And what have Barrasso and his fellow U.S. Congressional Republican pals done in response (aside from saying that the stimulus “failed” even though they patted themselves on the back for bringing stimulus funds back to their states or congressional districts, as noted here)?

  • Obama’s jobs plan blocked in the Senate in October 2011 (here).
  • A $60 billion infrastructure spending bill was also blocked in the Senate in November 2011 (heregee, ya’ think that would have helped with repairing our roads crumbling from this awful winter? And do you remember this stellar related moment?).
  • Obama’s 2011 American Jobs Act was also blocked in the U.S. House (here).
  • A veterans’ jobs bill was also blocked in the Senate in September 2012 (here).
  • Of course, an extension of unemployment benefits that would create 2 million jobs was also blocked (here).
  • Here’s a more comprehensive list of legislation backed by Obama that has been blocked by Republicans in Congress (and here is another typical Barrasso move).

  • Continuing, I give you the latest from the perpetually angry Brent Bozell (here)…

    Media liberals are howling at the apparent injustice of the “anti-Clinton” Washington Free Beacon website, which has dared to paw through old Hillary Clinton history. The hypocrisy is stunning. Let us recall the avalanche of mean-spirited and sleazy “fair game” the networks assembled for us just a few years ago in the last election cycle.

    Bozell then goes on to list a whole bunch of imagined media slights involving Republicans, which I won’t bother to address here lest this entire subject grow too tiresome than it already is. However, I’m going to say something about this because 1) Without giving away the game too much, I think it’s safe to say that we’re going to be dealing with an upcoming presidential election cycle involving Hillary Clinton, and 2) Our wingnut brethren, if Bozell is any indication, have already decided to start dumping on the former First Lady, Secretary of State and U.S. Senator from New York regardless (it’s ALWAYS good sport for conservatives to dump on the Clintons, which, if nothing else, tells you how pitiable these people truly are).

    Bozell also mentioned something about the Washington Free Beacon (whatever that is). In response, this Media Matters post tells us that the “Free Beacon” relied on a report from a group called OPSEC to attack Hillary Clinton – this tells us more about the group:

    …OPSEC, a right-wing group made up of retired intelligence and Special Forces operatives, has partisan ties and a history of disingenuously attacking the Obama administration. The group “first surfaced during the 2012 presidential campaign,” when they produced a 22-minute film and TV ads accusing President Obama of “seeking political gain from the May 2011 military operation that killed Osama bin Laden.” (PolitiFact rated the claims made in the ads as “false” and “mostly false.”) Key members of the group have current and former affiliations with the Republican Party, and Reuters uncovered that more than a quarter of OPSEC’s 2012 funding was raised by Campaign Solutions, a political consultancy which represents Republican candidates.

    OPSEC’s president, Scott Taylor, has also previously been accused of “shady campaign tactics” in his multiple bids for Republican state office, and as Business Insider noted, the group’s maneuvers reveal they are more interested in attacking President Obama and the Obama administration than promoting any national security interests. According to OpenSecrets, OPSEC spent almost $500,000 in the 2012 election cycle on “electioneering communications” alone.

    Official investigations have found Secretary Clinton, the Obama administration, and the military did everything within their power to rescue the Americans stationed in Benghazi at the time. The official inquiry into the State Department’s role conducted by the independent, nonpartisan Accountability Review Board found that security at Benghazi was inadequate and offered recommendations for State to prevent future attacks, all of which are being implemented, but found Clinton personally blameless.

    Yes, having to counter the nonsense from Bozell and his ilk is time not spent trying to persuade anyone still on the fence at this point why they should vote for a Democrat in the upcoming and all future election cycles. But this is an exercise that must be done, since the “noise machine” will crank up ever louder, immune to facts and reason as always.

  • Further, I have to comment on the following here (staying with clownhall.com, and apparently still in need of an editor)…

    More than half of Americans oppose Obamacare and 56% claim the law is more about bolstering government control than it is about helping individuals gethealth care (sic).

    The millions kicked off their insurance certainly do not find the policy freeing, neither do millennials forced to pay for healthcare feel liberated.

    Obamacare is precisely the type of overbearing government policy that the Founders would have fought against…

    Oh? So the Founding Fathers would have opposed “Obamacare”?

    This tells us about the U.S. Marine Hospital, founded in 1798, under President John Adams (it eventually became our Public Health Service, led by the Surgeon General). And as noted here, the hospital was also supported by Thomas Jefferson, hardly an acolyte of “big gumint.”

    And did I tell you that Benjamin Franklin co-founded the nation’s first public hospital offering free health care, as noted here (which became Pennsylvania Hospital)? Gosh, I didn’t know our founding fathers were such a bunch of damn socialists (removing my tongue from my cheek).

    As long as I’m on this subject, though, I should point out that this tells us that the number of health care repeal votes in the U.S. House under Republican Party “leadership” has now ballooned to 47. And that means that I’ve fallen behind a bit on my count, based on my pledge to highlight a different U.S. House Republican for each repeal vote:

    Here is the tally so far:

    #1 – #31 is here.
    #32 – #40 is here.
    #41 – #42 is here.

    So without any more ado, let’s pick up the count, shall we?

    meadows

    #43 – Mark Meadows (NC – 11)

    As far as I’m concerned, Meadows is infamous for only one act, but it was a real doozy, and that would be last year’s government shut down; as noted here, he was more responsible for it than any other person in the U.S. Congress.

    And just to refresh our memories, these in part were the results:

  • Disadvantaged women and infants relying on nutrition programs, as well as anyone relying on Head Start, individuals with disabilities and people needing heating assistance were all hurt (here).
  • Processing of veterans’ compensation, pension and education benefits was delayed; the shutdown was projected to drain about $10 billion out of our economy (here).
  • Passport applications were delayed as well, and shutting down sites in the U.S. Parks service hurt tourism as well as related businesses relying on tourist dollars, OSHA halted inspections, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission halted investigations of fraudulent trading practices – processing of Pell Grants and student loan assistance was also slowed (here).
  • FEMA ended up furloughing 86 percent of their employees during the height of the hurricane season (here).
  • So yeah, if Mark Meadows does absolutely nothing else of consequence one way or the other for the remainder of his public life, he will always be remembered for the utterly ruinous 2013 government shutdown, as well he should.

    ellmers

    #44 – Renee Ellmers (NC – 02)

    What a prize of an elected official…

  • Speaking of the shut down, Ellmers voted for it of course, but when asked why she wouldn’t donate her salary, said “I need my paycheck” here (as Laura Clawson says, as if Head Start teachers don’t?).
  • Oh, and an unsecured AR-15 rifle was stolen from her home here (smooth move).
  • Here, she introduced a “bill” to provide “rights” to disabled (injured and amputee) veterans that they already have.
  • As noted here, Ellmers introduced a resolution to honor Jesse Helms (ding ding ding! We have a winner in the “Wingnut of the Week” contest!).
  • Also, I’m not the biggest fan of Clay Aiken either, and I know politics ain’t beanbag as somebody once said, but I thought it definitely showed a lack of class on her part to mock his singing here.
  • reid-ribble-oops

    #45 – Reid Ribble (WI – 08)

  • This tells us that a petition with 120,000 signatures was delivered to Ribble’s office telling him not to include Social Security cuts in fiscal discussions last year, which Ribble intended to do regardless of the fact Social Security does not contribute to the federal deficit…remember the whole “chained CPI” thing, which apparently has come around again as an issue as noted here?
  • And speaking of Social Security, he wants anyone relying on that popular federal program to get it in the proverbial neck, as it were, as noted here.
  • In a truly guttural move, Ribble actually scolded Sister Simone Campbell for asking government to help the poor (nice).
  • Here, Ribble ducked out early from a jobs fair to attend a campaign fundraiser (what a swell guy).
  • Ribble said here that government shouldn’t borrow, even though he personally carries a couple of hundred thousand in debt (the latter isn’t a crime, but don’t be so damn two-faced about it).
  • And OF COURSE he’s a member of the “Koch Caucus” (here).
  • SteveStockman

    #46 – Steve Stockman (TX – 36)

    I don’t know if Stockman is the biggest goof ball on this list or not, but if he isn’t, he’s certainly in the top two…

  • There’s lots of stuff on Stockman from this great post – take your pick.
  • He also thinks Ted Nugent is a patriot (here).
  • Stockman invited the rodeo clown wearing an Obama mask noted here to perform in his district (nice).
  • He apparently went missing also (here), but he turned up later (here), thinking the whole “missing” thing was a joke apparently (of course, if you want to read something really funny, take a look at this…wonder if the Teahadists will do the U.S. Senate Democrats another favor?).
  • As noted here, Stockman is also apparently a fan of that show “Duck Dynasty,” along with a lot of others I know (in response, I give you this…anyone who buys into that show is a total rube).
  • Update 3/4/14: HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

    Neugebauer

    #47 – Randy Neugebauer (TX – 19)

  • Yes, it’s true – as the picture shows, any discussion of Neugebauer has to begin with his truly infamous episode where he yelled at a U.S. Park Ranger for closing the WWII memorial during the shut down his party initiated (here).
  • He also yelled out “baby killer,” presumably at former Dem U.S. House Rep Bart Stupak, during Stupak’s speech on the House floor at about the same time as the vote for the Affordable Care Law in 2010, which is truly idiotic but particularly in the case of pro-lifer Stupak (here)…and yes, he apologized.
  • Oh, and when asked here, he wouldn’t provide a copy of his birth certificate, even though Neugebauer is a “birther” himself, as noted here (uh oh).
  • Neugebauer was also one of the House Repugs who voted for farm aid (receiving about $4 grand in subsidies) while also voting to cut food stamps (here…also, he’s very definitely a member of the “Koch Caucus” along with Reid Ribble, noted in the link above).
  • So I think that brings the official count up to date; I should also start thinking about a proper commemoration for the eventual 50th repeal vote. Because, knowing this bunch in the House, that vote will surely come.

  • Rep_Holt_Official_Headshot

  • Finally, as long as I’ve devoted so much space to Congressional miscreants, allow me to finish by bidding a fond farewell to a retiring Dem who set, I believe, a sterling example of how Democrats are supposed to advocate for their constituencies and what kind of legislation they are supposed to author and/or support. And that would be Rush Holt of New Jersey (here).

    As noted below (citing what I know is an incomplete list of accomplishments)…

  • He spoke out against the ever-pervasive surveillance state here.
  • On a related note, he sponsored the RESTORE Act in 2007 here (earning the enmity of Joke Line, among others).
  • He was also a visionary on climate change (here).
  • He helped secure $3 million to keep the NJ Technology Center at Ft. Monmouth open (here).
  • He was a staunch defender of Social Security (here).
  • He won congressional approval of a measure to mandate video recording of interrogations (here).
  • Holt once introduced a bill to ensure a paper ballot in elections here (that issue more or less got swept under the rug, but last I checked, it still needed to be addressed).
  • We are truly losing some giants on our side in the House between Holt, Henry Waxman and George Miller. However, it is only right to cycle in new blood, as it were, and to also give thanks for the exemplary precedent set by those who have done their time and have now earned a well-deserved rest, providing the way forward for future heroes on our side, championing future causes for the good of our country. And may we see the day when their hard work comes to joyful fruition for us all.


  • Tuesday Mashup (1/28/14)

    January 28, 2014
  • I have to admit that I was a bit – how shall I put it? – nonplussed by the following concerning the recent Davos gathering (the recent “big story” is the alleged hardship of the “one percent,” and Philadelphia’s conservative newspaper of record is ON IT, PEOPLE!)…

    Some of the richest and most powerful people in the world were asked by Wharton researchers to assess a set of risks likely to disrupt life as we know it — risks that could bring the downfall of governments and destroy economies.

    Of more than two dozen catastrophic scenarios, the group of global titans said these were their biggest concerns:

    1) Income inequality, which threatens social and political stability as well as economic development.
    2) Increasing numbers of extreme weather events which cause massive damage to property, infrastructure and the environment.
    3) Chronic unemployment, which coincides with a rising skills gap and high underemployment, especially among the young.
    4) Climate change, specifically the failure of government and industry to take action to protect threatened people and businesses.
    5) The escalation of large-scale cyber-attacks.

    In response to #1, I give you this (and this).

    As far as #2 goes (which goes with #4 as far as I’m concerned), I give you this (lots of talk with no commitment to anything, of course).

    And as far as Davos and its supposed laser-focus on unemployment (#3), I give you this (it will take smart, targeted government spending, people, which is what it has taken all along – we did this under FDR and we did this under Bill Clinton…yes, I know this is a broken record).

    Oh, and as far as cyber security is concerned (#5), I’ll let the Davos geniuses figure that out on their own, since it apparently hits their pocketbooks more directly than the other items on the list (at least this post-Davos item was positive, though).

  • Next, it looks like the Repugs are having their retreat this week to figure out some new “branding” trick to try and confuse the American sheeple, to say nothing of our corporate media of course (here – made to order for “Tiger Beat on the Potomac,” of course)…

    House Republicans will hear from legendary college football coach Lou Holtz, GOP message maven Frank Luntz, conservative journalists and pollsters and education experts at their annual retreat in Maryland this week.

    The House Republican Conference will also hear Rachel Campos Duffy — wife of Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) — talk about “reaching every corner of America.”

    Of course they’ll hear from Frank Luntz (let’s see, maybe, instead of the “Tea Party,” we can have a “grass roots” gathering called the “Patriot Party,” with Rick Santelli yelling out the alarm as he once did here.)

    As far as Rachel Campos Duffy is concerned, she’s the wife of a guy who once said he “struggled” on his congressional salary of about $174 grand (and he spent more than $106 grand on personal use automobiles, both noted here). Her husband also got heat here (rightly so) for his vote to end Medicare (“voucherizing” it, despite what he said to a constituent) and continue tax cuts for the rich. And he also favored “immigration reform” without a path to citizenship here.

    And Lou Holtz? He’s a climate change denier, of course (here). He also was such a good sport when Alabama blew out Notre Dame a little over a year ago here (umm, maybe the “Fighting Irish” couldn’t “run the ball” because Alabama was kicking their collective butt…hard to do that when you’re losing). Besides, I thought he didn’t want anything to do with politics any more, having been quite rightly burned for endorsing former Repug Senator and race-baiter Jesse Helms here.

    I’m sure it doesn’t need to be pointed out yet again that this is nothing but more “kabuki” from the Beltway media-political-industrial complex. The party in power in the U.S. House has had over three years to come up with a plan to create actual jobs with a decent living wage and grow the economy for real. They haven’t. They can’t.

    And they never will.

  • Further, get a load of this from “Pastor” Gerson on the Affordable Care Law

    But even judged on the terms of (David) Remnick’s praise (of The New Yorker, who recently wrote an article about Number 44), Obama is in deep, second-term trouble. The president who embraces complexity is now besieged by complexity on every front. The U.S. health-care system has not responded as planned to the joystick manipulations of the Affordable Care Act. On the evidence of the article, Obama and his closest advisers are in denial about the structural failures of the program — the stingy coverage, narrow provider networks, high deductibles and adverse-selection spirals already underway in several states.

    How can the coverage be “stingy” when it includes an expansion of Medicaid to cover those who weren’t covered before (here, with the only obstacle being Republican governors who won’t allow Medicaid expansion, or, in the case of our own “Space Cadet” Tom Corbett, doing so with ridiculous strings attached such as proof of looking for employment)? And as noted here concerning “narrow provider networks”…

    About a third of insurance companies opted out of participating in the exchanges in states where they were already doing business, according to a recent report by McKinsey & Co. About half of states — which include about a third of the non-elderly insured population — will see a “material decline” in competitors, says McKinsey, while the other half of states will have about the same or more insurance choices on the exchanges.

    I read this as follows: as more enroll on the exchanges, more health care insurance providers will decide to offer plans on the exchanges. The carriers will go where the customers are, one of the things Gerson and his ilk are loathe to acknowledge, of course.

    As far as “high deductibles” goes, I give you the story of lifelong Arkansas Republican Butch Matthews here, who, after doing some actual fact-checking and research, discovered that “his local Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) provider confirmed that he would be able to buy a far better plan than his current policy while saving at least $13,000 per year (by enrolling on an exchange).”

    And I’ll be honest – I don’t know exactly what an “adverse selection spiral” is; if and when Gerson ever decides to explain it, I’ll update this post accordingly (and for what it’s worth, here is a link to Remnick’s article in The New Yorker).

    As noted here, though, I think it’s safe to say that Gerson isn’t exactly an impartial observer on this issue anyway.

  • Continuing (and sticking with health care reform), I give you the latest fear mongering from (who else?) Fix Noise (here)…

    Tom Gialanella, 56, was shocked to find out he qualified for Medicaid under ObamaCare. The Bothell, Wash., resident had been able to retire early years ago, owns his home outright in a pricey Seattle suburb and is living off his investments.

    He wanted no part of the government’s so-called free health care. “It’s supposed to be a safety net program. It’s not supposed to be for someone who has assets who can pay the bill,” he said.

    And after reading the fine print, Gialanella had another reason to flee Medicaid — the potential death debt.

    Cue the scary-sounding music (and leave it to the Foxies to fund somebody whose exceptional life circumstances dovetails perfectly into their “big gumint is baaaad” narrative).

    In response, I believe the following should be emphasized from here

    The Seattle Times published an article on Dec. 15, under the headline “Expanded Medicaid’s fine print holds surprise: ‘payback’ from estate after death,” that said: “If you’re 55 or over, Medicaid can come back after you’re dead and bill your estate for ordinary health-care expenses.” The Times is right that the state of Washington has this power, but it was not in the “fine print” of the Affordable Care Act (as the story itself makes clear).

    All states have had the option since Medicaid began in 1965 to recover some Medicaid costs from recipients after they die, as the Department of Health and Human Services explains in a2005 policy brief. In 1965, it was optional and states could only recoup Medicaid costs spent on those 65 years or older. That changed in 1993, when Congress passed an omnibus budget bill that required states to recover the expense of long-term care and related costs for deceased Medicaid recipients 55 or older. The 1993 federal law also gave states the option to recover all other Medicaid expenses.

    The Affordable Care Act did nothing to change existing federal law. It did, however, expand the number of people who are eligible for Medicaid, so there will be more people on Medicaid between the ages of 55 and 65, and, therefore, potentially more estates on the hook for Medicaid expenses after the beneficiary dies.

    Is this a problem? I suppose, but let’s address it constructively through legislation (yeah, good luck with that with those jokers in charge of the House) instead of fear mongering for a change, OK?

    And of course, this Dan Springer character, being a good little wingnut, tried to gin up more SOLYNDRA! nonsense here.

  • Finally, I just wanted to point out that we recently observed the 50th anniversary of the report from the U.S. Surgeon General linking cigarette smoking to cancer (and as noted here, cigarette smoking has also been linked to other ailments of varying degrees, including liver cancer, erectile dysfunction, and other bad stuff). The good news, though, is that (as noted here) about 8 million lives have been saved by prevention efforts.

    Like many other people I’m sure, this issue hits home. My dad smoked until his last days; I’ll never forget the look of anxiety on his face when he wondered whether or not I’d purchased his carton of Tareyton’s while I was out running other errands so he could break open a pack and light one up on the front porch (during the days near the end when it was dangerous for him to drive anymore because of a variety of ailments and my mom said he couldn’t light up in the house any more, partly because it got ridiculous having to redo the paint and wallpaper every few years from the stains of cigarette smoke).

    Yes, I probably should not have caved and tried to stand up to him on this, but I could tell that, though he was able to kick other bad habits, he would not have been able to do it with this one. And yes, nobody points a gun at anyone and tells them to smoke; there is an element of choice. But I don’t think that absolves us of trying to reach out to people if we think they can be reached on this subject (not as a would-be “reformer,” but as an interested and caring observer).

    And last year, we went through something like this with another beloved family member. My mother-in-law had been suffering with adenocarcinoma for the last year or so, but it got progressively worse as the cancer metastasized (unlike my dad, she had given up smoking years ago, though she had smoked for many years prior to that). It went from her lung to her liver and spread all over the place. There were multiple rounds of chemo and radiation which definitely bought time, but made her physically sicker in the bargain.

    The decline was gradual – first periodic hospital visits for procedures, then shorter stays, then longer stays and more procedures, then trying to do physical therapy to the point where she could endure more treatments, then finally to the point where she couldn’t even go through PT anymore, to the point where she finally couldn’t come home from the rehabilitation facility and slipped into a coma.

    It was truly hard to find anything positive in this experience, but one thing I can say without reservation is that she received fine care from Vitas at Nazareth Hospital in Philadelphia. We remain ever grateful to the staff for their constant attention to Mom during her final days.

    The day we said goodbye at Vitas (prior to the viewing and the funeral), we tried our best to console one another and go on with our lives in as normal a manner as we could. We drove off in separate cars, and as I left the parking lot, I saw a line of what appeared to be thin, twenty-something young women who (I assume) were done their shift at the hospital, standing in line in mid-afternoon waiting for what I guess was the 20 bus running up Roosevelt Boulevard.

    And at least four of them were smoking.

    If only you knew, I thought to myself, as I turned at the light and headed for home.


  • The Onerous Answer To Ileana’s “Umbrage”

    March 13, 2009

    ileana
    This tells us that U.N. Secretary Ban Ki Moon referred to the U.S. as a “deadbeat” donor to that world body; here’s the reason why…

    Ban said he had wanted to draw attention to the fact that the U.S. agrees to pay 22 percent of the U.N.’s $4.86 billion operating budget, but is perennially late with its dues — and now is about $1 billion behind on its payments.

    That figure is “soon to be $1.6 billion,” Ban emphasized. Asked if he’d used the word “deadbeat” during the meeting, he replied, “Yes, I did — I did,” then laughed mischievously.

    Mark Kornblau, spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, said: “The U.S. is the largest contributor to the United Nations and while we are behind in some of our payments, those are not the words we would have chosen to encourage Congress to address this problem.”

    Apparently concerned about his choice of words, Ban an issued a statement Wednesday night saying the U.S. “generously supports the work of the U.N., both in assessed and voluntary contributions” and that he “enjoys an excellent working relationship with the United States and appreciates the many ways that it supports the United Nations.”

    And of course, this led to the predictable right-wing outcry…

    “He used the word ‘deadbeat’ when it came to characterizing the United States. I take great umbrage (over) that,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the panel’s senior Republican, said after an hour-long, closed-door meeting. “We certainly contribute a whole lot of U.S. taxpayer dollars to that organization. We do not deserve such a phrase.”

    Oh no?

    This tells us how in 1997, with Bill Clinton as president and the odious Jesse Helms as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, we used our late UN dues payments as a cudgel of sorts for reform to ultimately oust then-Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali in favor of Kofi Annan (the former was charged with “dragging his feet” on reform by our government).

    (Oh, and by the way, the ’97 transcript of “The News Hour With Jim Lehrer” features moderator Charlayne Hunter-Gault interviewing a guy from the American Enterprise Institute who was still relatively unknown – would that he had stayed that way – named John Bolton who said that there was no financial crisis, but only a crisis of U.N. “legitimacy”…typical).

    The following should also be noted also from here…

    …the US did not pay its UN dues for decades. When it finally agreed to pay past dues in return for a reduction in its assessments, it refused to fulfill (sp) the promise. The resentment against the US at typical UN meetings is so intense that it can be felt in the air. It was this resentment that led the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to oust the US from the 53-member Human Rights Commission (HRC) in May 2001. […] It was the vote of a number of European and ‘friendly nations’ that eventually ousted America. The US suffered a similar defeat in 1998 when it was ejected from, but later reinstated to, the UN Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), a key committee that deals with funding in the whole body.”

    “In 1993 […] only eighteen countries (accounting for 16 percent of the budget of the UN) paid in full by the January 31 deadline. And by 31 October 1994, governments owed the UN a total of $2,100,000,000. […] The United States owed the most ($687,000,000), followed by Russia ($597,000,000)”

    …The 1985 Palme initiative was presented to cap the maximum contribution by any member state, in particular this would have curbed the amount that the USA can contribute, especially in light on its failure to actually pay. “We believe that this was an eminently sound suggestion. The high US share, though justified by that country’s wealth, has been exploited by elements hostile to the U.N.”

    But this proposal was opposed the USA itself! It was rejected by “the Reagan administration, anxious to maintain the leverage that its level of contribution seemed to buy”. In short, the USA wanted to keep its high formal contribution levels in order to buy maximum influence (bribe the UN), and yet didn’t want to actually pay any of the money it owed, either! This type of abuse leads…to contempt of the USA and the dropping of the USA from major bodies of the UN.

    And as noted here (references are a bit dated now, I realize, but this shows where a lot of the money goes)…

    Of course, the U.S. is not the only debtor. Only 50 percent of the U.N.’s membership had paid their 2003 assessments in full by the end of September, and $693 million remained unpaid. Of the fifteen biggest contributors, the U.S., Brazil and Japan had not paid their annual dues by the end of August.”

    This unpredictability, combined with the large amount of money owed, is having serious repercussions for the U.N. Payments for the international tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda are so far in arrears –there is a $96 million shortfall for 2003 alone – that officials were forced to borrow $41 million from the U.N. peacekeeping accounts. This borrowing came despite the fact that the U.N.’s peacekeeping fund was already more than $1.1 billion in the red.

    In late October, the “Group of 77” developing nations warned that the UN was taking too long to reimburse contributors to peacekeeping missions and complained about the practice of dipping into other funds. But Under-Secretary-General Bertini told them that if all countries paid their assessments in full, it wouldn’t happen.

    It seems such a simple solution: all governments, particularly wealthy and powerful ones, should make sure that they pay their U.N. dues in full and on time. To do otherwise puts the U.N.’s future in jeopardy. U.S. payments have been out of sync for so long that they’re now a habit, and it has encouraged other countries like Japan to adopt the practice of late payment. The U.S. Congress has already voiced its concern; the Fiscal Year 2003 State Department Authorization Bill stated that “late payment of U.S. dues forces the United Nations and other international organizations to engage in budgetary practices that are neither sound nor responsible.” The House of Representatives recently called for a report on the ramifications of late payment, and directed the President to create a plan to resume paying U.N. dues at the beginning of each calendar year.”

    Given all of this, I have to admit that I’m surprised also over the characterization of the U.S. as “deadbeats” when it comes to our U.N. payments.

    What surprises me is that we didn’t hear such a characterization long before now.


    More On “Money Matters Tuesday”

    September 23, 2008

    Returning to the New York Times, this story in the business section tells us how Sweden managed to recover from their financial turmoil in the prior decade that bears a striking resemblance to what we currently face (that is, “after years of imprudent regulation, short-sighted economic policy and the end of its property boom… its banking system was, for all practical purposes, insolvent,” according to the story).

    But in response…

    Sweden did not just bail out its financial institutions by having the government take over the bad debts. It extracted pounds of flesh from bank shareholders before writing checks. Banks had to write down losses and issue warrants to the government.

    That strategy held banks responsible and turned the government into an owner. When distressed assets were sold, the profits flowed to taxpayers, and the government was able to recoup more money later by selling its shares in the companies as well.

    “If I go into a bank,” Bo Lundgren, who was Sweden’s finance minister at the time, told The Times, “I’d rather get equity so that there is some upside for the taxpayer.”

    Sweden told its banks to write down their losses promptly before coming to the state for recapitalization. Facing its own problem later in the decade, Japan made the mistake of dragging this process out, delaying a solution for years.

    Then came the imperative to bleed shareholders first. Mr. Lundgren recalls a conversation with Peter Wallenberg, at the time chairman of SEB, Sweden’s largest bank. Mr. Wallenberg, the scion of the country’s most famous family and steward of large chunks of its economy, heard that there would be no sacred cows.

    The Wallenbergs turned around and arranged a recapitalization on their own, obviating the need for a bailout. SEB turned a profit the following year, 1993.

    “For every krona we put into the bank, we wanted the same influence,” Mr. Lundgren told The Times. “That ensured that we did not have to go into certain banks at all.”

    By the end of the crisis, the Swedish government had seized a vast portion of the banking sector, and the agency had mostly fulfilled its hard-nosed mandate to drain share capital before injecting cash. When markets stabilized, the Swedish state then reaped the benefits by taking the banks public again.

    I hope at least some (or, dare I imagine – all?) of these ideas are being discussed within Congress, though, given the fact that moonbats such as this gentleman are given credence on this matter, I hope you’ll forgive me for my cynicism.

    And in other indebtedness news, a full-page ad in the Times today reminded us that the U.S. currently owes the U.N. approximately $1.2 billion (actually, it’s closer to $1.3), though this Wikipedia article tells us that the so-called Helms-Biden legislation of 1999 (now there’s a combination!) was able to reduce our payments to the U.N. and related agencies based on negotiated reforms.

    It should be noted that, of the $1.3 billion, according to the article, “$612 million is payable under Helms-Biden. The remaining $700 million result from various legislative and policy withholdings; at present, there are no plans to pay these amounts.”

    Meanwhile, we canceled Iraq’s $4.1 billion debt here, even though, as noted here, that country now has a surplus of $79 billion.

    O to be governed by adults again (118 days and counting, people).

    (And by the way, what Bowers sez here – h/t Atrios.)

    Update: In a related vein, here’s “some straight talk you can believe in, my friends”; ka-chiiing! (and please don’t try to argue that Obama’s $126K of contributions from the employees is somehow worse).


  • Top Posts & Pages