Tuesday Mashup (6/24/14)

June 24, 2014

semi-automatic

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

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

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

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

    Also, as noted from here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Really?

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

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

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

    ..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    To the teachers union, of course!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  • Wednesday Mashup (8/14/13)

    August 14, 2013
  • Looks like it’s time to rally around the supposedly oh-so-put-upon American Legislative Exchange Council, as the Murdoch Street Journal tells us here

    The campaign to suppress political speech has found its next tactic, using outrage over Trayvon Martin’s killing in Florida as a hammer. (Last) Wednesday, Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin sent a letter to corporate and nonprofit supporters of the American Legislative Exchange Council, asking them to disclose their positions on stand-your-ground legislation that ALEC supported in Florida in 2005.

    ALEC is a group of state legislators from around the country that promotes center-right reform ideas, mostly on economic issues. It has had success spreading those ideas, which has made it a target of liberal activists trying to cut off its funding.

    Like the Repugs did successfully to ACORN, a left-wing advocacy organization which no longer exists, let’s not forget.

    Enter Mr. Durbin. “Although ALEC does not maintain a public list of corporate members or donors, other public documents indicate that your company funded ALEC at some point during the period between ALEC’s adoption of model ‘stand your ground’ legislation in 2005 and the present day,” Mr. Durbin writes in the letter to groups and companies that have donated to ALEC.

    Since support for ALEC doesn’t “necessarily mean” that it endorses every position taken by the organization, Mr. Durbin continues, he is “seeking clarification” on whether companies that have “funded ALEC’s operations in the past currently support ALEC and the model ‘stand your ground’ legislation.” Oh, and by the way, the letter concludes, he intends to make the responses public at a Congressional hearing in September.

    Translation: If your company engages in political debate or supports conservative groups, he will tie your name to controversies or force you to publicly disclaim positions taken by groups you support. Mr. Durbin knows that if he can drive a wedge between ALEC and its corporate donors, it will help cripple the group’s influence on issues like tax policy and education and remove a significant voice for conservative reform in the states, including Illinois.

    “Conservative reform” being code for gutting clean air and water laws, trying to abolish public school education, disenfranchising poor and minority voters, et cetera…

    The plan also sends up a flare for Mr. Durbin’s allies at agitprop outfits like MoveOn.org, which will then target for public abuse and perhaps boycott the companies whose names Mr. Durbin exposes.

    By the way, isn’t it interesting how the Journal refers to ALEC as a group that “promotes center-right reform ideas” and MoveOn.org is an “agitprop outfit.”

    The strategy was used against Target retail stores in 2010, when MoveOn pushed a boycott because Target donated to a group that in turn donated to a GOP candidate for Minnesota Governor.

    MoveOn “targeted” Target, if you will, because the company did indeed donate $150,000 to a Minnesota politician who opposes gay marriage, but decided not to give a matching amount to pro-gay candidates for balance (here).

    Did Target have a right to do that? Yes. Did MoveOn.org have a right to push its boycott in response? Again, yes.

    To me, it just sounds like democracy in action (which is messy at times, for a reason). Of course, leave it to the Journal to view it as a lefty conspiracy, or something.

    ALEC was targeted last year when former White House aide Van Jones accused the group and its donors of racism during the election-year fight over voter ID laws. Through letters and media smear campaigns…

    Proof?

    …the group succeeded in getting such non-profiles in courage as Coca-Cola, Mars and Kraft to stop donating to ALEC. One result is that ALEC closed its task forces that dealt with non-economic issues.

    That was an effort to minimize the political fallout for members and donors around issues that weren’t ALEC’s core mission, but now Democrats are back for more.

    Oh, so the Journal knows what ALEC’s “core mission” is? Oh, right – “center/right reform ideas”…uh huh. And apparently, that includes widespread lobbying while claiming tax-exempt status, as noted here.

    Mr. Durbin knows that companies making hamburgers or allergy drugs don’t care about stand-your-ground laws. His goal is to scare them with reputational damage by mentioning them in the same breath as Trayvon Martin. This is how the modern left—via the IRS, the Federal Election Commission and now in Congress—tries to stifle political debate.

    Ha and ha (and I would say that writing an editorial like this without noting that the Journal is itself a member of ALEC is an attempt to “stifle political debate” also, as noted here – and of course, lefties were targeted by the IRS too, a fact the Journal choose to ignore).

    Oh, and assuming a bill is ever signed into law containing language directly from an “agitprop outfit” like MoveOn.org (this Michigan “right to work” bill received that treatment, including language that came directly from ALEC), I’m sure the Journal will let me know – yeah, right.

    Update 8/15/13: More here

  • Next, I have a feeling that the other Bush brother is getting a little antsy about all the big media love doled out to fellow Repugs (and potential 2016 presidential candidates) Rand “Fake Ophthalmologist” Paul and Ted “Calgary” Cruz (to say nothing of Governor Bully, of course), and I guess the former FAL guv thought he had to make a splash somehow (here)…

    Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) on Wednesday criticized actor Matt Damon, a vocal public-school advocate, for sending his children to private school.

    Matt Damon Refuses to Enroll Kids in Los Angeles Public Schools. Choice ok for Damon, why not everyone else? http://t.co/yHrTbakeIW

    — Jeb Bush (@JebBush) August 6, 2013

    “I’ll take ‘Desperately Trying To Remain Relevant Somehow’ for 100, Alex!”

    There are a few directions you can go with this, but for now, I’d like to point out the following (here, in which the Daily Kos diarist notes that the “research” in support of school choice is largely bankrolled by the Walton Family, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, and the usual coterie of right-wing propagandists)…

    School choice may, in fact, hold some promises for reforming education since “choice” is central to human agency and empowerment. But the school choice movement and its advocates are the least likely avenues for us ever realizing what school choice has to offer because the advocates are primarily driven by ideology and funding coming from sources that have intentions that have little to do with universal public education for free and empowered people.

    And the growing evidence that corporate charter schools as the latest choice mechanism are causing harm–in terms of segregation and stratification of student populations–is cause for alarm for all people along the spectrum of school reform and school choice. [5]

    If a school choice advocate sticks to the talking-points script and will not acknowledge the overwhelming evidence that out-of-school factors determine student outcomes, that evidence is mounting that choice stratifies schools, and that evidence on how school is delivered (public, private, charter) is mixed and similar among all types of schooling, then that advocate isn’t worth our time and isn’t contributing to a vibrant and open debate that could help move us toward school reform that benefits each student and our larger society.

    And on top of that, this tells us the following…

    Charter school trends vary substantially across different regions of the country. Latinos are under-enrolled in charter schools in some Western states where they comprise the largest share of students. At the same time, a dozen states (including those with high concentrations of Latino students like Arizona and Texas) report that a majority of Latino charter students attend intensely segregated minority schools. Patterns in the West and in a few areas in the South, the two most racially diverse regions of the country, also suggest that charters serve as havens for white flight from public schools. Finally, in the industrial Midwest, more students enroll in charter schools compared to other regions, and midwestern charter programs display high concentrations of black students.

    Since Brown v. Board of Education, public schools have been compelled to address this disparity. That public schools have been inconsistent in this mission is a conclusion that is not in dispute.

    Charter schools on the other hand, — especially those operated by national Charter Management Organizations like KIPP and National Heritage Academies — tend to reinforce geographic racial patterns in their marketing appeals. On their websites and in their printed materials, these charter chains invariably promote their abilities to educate “underserved” communities and “close achievement gaps,” even though there is no evidence that charters in general are any better at this than traditional public schools. In fact, many of them are worse.

    But beyond all of that, this tells us, among other things, that Jeb Bush is criticizing actor Matt Damon for doing something Bush did himself (oh, and last I checked, Matt Damon isn’t a potential candidate for any government office whatsoever).

    However, I’ll let a professed Jeb Bush supporter get the last word here…

    MS_Kelly_J_Bush_0813
    Actually, no, he isn’t.

  • Continuing, it looks like John Lott is all up in arms (pun intended) over keeping the identity of gun owners a secret (here). Funny, but I didn’t see NRA members being so shy when it came to showing off their hardware at a Starbucks in Newtown, CT recently, as noted here (the place where the Sandy Hook school carnage took place last year, for the benefit of anyone who has somehow forgotten that – to the credit of the Starbucks store, it closed early on Friday, but it should not have had to do that).

    (I suddenly realized that, in accordance with the ALEC editorial earlier, the Murdoch Street Journal would probably try to accuse me now of suppressing the legitimate free speech of the NRA…I have a two-word response, and it isn’t “happy birthday,” or “lock n’ load.”)

    I wonder if Lott is trying to hide the identity of gun owners also because, as determined in a 1994 study noted here, male gun owners were 2 ½ times more likely than non-gun owners to be arrested for non-traffic offenses? And by the way, as noted from the same HuffPo link, a 2012 survey found that most guns used in mass shootings were legally purchased – just an FYI.

    Honestly, though, I think Lott and his pals have nothing to worry about (just whipping up phony outrage as usual). From what I’ve read, Gawker and the New York Journal News took so much flak for publishing the names of New York gun owners that I think the chilling effect of that alone would be enough to prevent anyone else from doing it.

  • Further, I give you Mark Hemingway of The Weakly Standard (here)…

    On August 15, 2012, at 10:46 a.m.—one year ago this week—Floyd Lee Corkins entered the lobby of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. He was carrying a backpack that contained 15 Chick-fil-A -sandwiches, a Sig Sauer 9mm pistol, and 100 rounds of ammunition. Corkins has since pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing for the crimes he proceeded to commit. He’s set to spend decades in a prison cell and fade into obscurity.

    But Leo Johnson deserves to be remembered for his heroism that day. The building manager for the Family Research Council was manning the front desk that morning and let Corkins enter the building under the pretense he was a new intern. The video of what happened after that is remarkable.

    After Corkins takes a suspiciously long time rummaging through his bag to produce identification, Johnson cannily stands up and walks around the desk to get a closer look at what Corkins is doing. Corkins bolts upright, gun in hand. Without the slightest hesitation, Johnson rushes Corkins, who fires twice. A bullet shatters Johnson’s left forearm. “And I just couldn’t hear anything, my arm just kind of blew back. So at that point I was thinking: ‘I have to get this gun,’ ” Johnson told The Weekly Standard. “That was my sole focus—I have to get this gun—this guy’s gonna kill me and kill everybody here.”

    From there, Johnson somehow manages to push Corkins across the lobby and pin him against the wall with his bad arm. “I just started punching him as hard as I could, until I could feel his grip loosen,” recalled Johnson. Eventually he takes the gun from Corkins with his wounded arm. Before long, Corkins is subdued on the ground. Corkins now admits that it was his intention to shoot everyone in the building. There’s no question Johnson saved a lot of lives.

    Leo Johnson’s actions were heroic, absolutely, and Hemingway’s piece tells us about all of Johnson’s difficulty with rehabilitation and medical bills, as well as caring for his elderly mother and very elderly grandmother (and yes, Corkins is just another cowardly idiot with a gun).

    But if you think all of this is just a setup to take a shot at us lefties, then you win a commemorative Mexican terrorist doll with the face of Repug U.S. House Rep Louie Gohmert (the commemorative model with the face of Steve King has “calves the size of cantaloupes”).

    Continuing…

    There’s a lot that should be said about Johnson’s heroism, starting with the fact that it hasn’t been widely recognized. Over the last few years, thanks to events such as the Gabrielle Giffords shooting and the George Zimmerman trial, the media have been subjecting us all to a constant and unavoidable national debate about the nexus of politics and violence. This has been unusually perplexing because the media persist in having this debate even when no connection between politics and violence exists.

    Obama_Baby_Teabagger

    Obama_White_Slavery

    Taxpayer_Obama_Oven


    Really?

    The Family Research Council shooting is one of the few inarguable examples of politically motivated violence in recent years, yet looking back a year later, the incident has garnered comparatively little attention. Corkins openly admits he selected the Family Research Council because the Christian organization is one of the leading opponents of gay marriage in the country. He had Chick-fil-A sandwiches in his backpack because the CEO of the fast-food chain was under fire for publicly supporting a biblical definition of marriage. Corkins said he planned to “smother Chick-fil-A sandwiches in [the] faces” of his victims as a political statement. And in case that didn’t make his motivations transparent, right before Corkins shot Leo Johnson, he told him, “I don’t like your politics.”

    Later in the column, Hemingway blames the Southern Poverty Law Center (as if they had anything to do with Corkins and his criminal behavior) for designating the Family Research Council as a “hate group” (with Leo Johnson basically wondering why anyone would do such a thing – making that designation against the FRC, I mean).

    I’ll tell you why – as noted here

    The SPLC gave the Family Research Council the designation due to anti-gay speech from its leaders, which the SPLC says includes calls for gay men and lesbians to be imprisoned.

    Labeling the Family Research Council a hate group puts one of Washington’s most powerful social issues advocates into the company of groups like the Nation of Islam and the now mostly defunct Aryan Nations in the eyes of the SPLC, which tracks 932 active hate groups in the U.S.

    Groups are labeled hate groups by the SPLC — which made a name for itself by using civil lawsuits to severely weaken the KKK and other white supremacist groups — when they “have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics,” according to the group’s website.

    The main offender in the eyes of the SPLC is Peter Sprigg, the FRC’s senior researcher and vocal opponent of the gay rights movement. In May, Sprigg told me that an end to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would lead to more American servicemen receiving unwelcome same-sex fellatio in their sleep, part of a long line of reasoning from Sprigg suggesting that gay men are more likely to be sex offenders than anyone else.

    SPLC Research Director Heidi Beirich told me the FRC is part of a growing list of what the SPLC calls anti-gay groups masking themselves under the guise of conservatism or Christianity.

    “What this really is is a wholesale defamation attack on gays and lesbians,” Beirich said. “Some of the stuff is just as crude if you compare it to, say, the Klan’s racism. But a lot of it’s a little more sophisticated and they try to make it more scientific even though what they’re pushing are falsehoods.”

    I wish Leo Johnson all the best in his recovery, and he is of course entitled to his opinion no matter how much I may disagree. But to use the horrible attack he endured as an excuse to whitewash the FRC’s bigotry is a whole other level of repulsive that I didn’t think I could ever imagine from the wingnutosphere until now.

  • Finally, it looks like Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina (do I need to mention the party?) is shocked, shocked I tell you! to hear Dem Senator and Majority Leader Harry Reid tell us that Republicans don’t like Obama because he’s an African American (here)…


    Yeah, don’t you hate it when somebody makes up stuff like that?

    “Instead of engaging in serious debate about the failed policies of this administration – from the ever-increasing burdens created by the national health care reform plan to the tax and spend approach to economic recovery, along with countless others – Democrats are once again trying to hide behind a smokescreen,” the Republican said.

    Added Scott: “Our country deserves more from those in Washington. I hope Senator Reid will realize the offensive nature of his remarks and apologize to those who disagree with the President’s policies because of one thing – they are hurting hardworking American families.”

    (Just as a reminder, this tells us once again that the “jobs” plan from congressional Republicans won’t create actual, y’know, jobs.)

    And when it comes to “hurting hardworking American families,” Scott has a pretty good (which is to say, bad) track record, as noted here

  • Scott attempted to prevent the families of striking workers from receiving food stamps (including kids).
  • He also tried to hurt the NLRB’s ability to go after law-breaking employers.
  • In addition, he also authored a bill that would have stripped the National Labor Relations Board of its ability to penalize companies that illegally move jobs in retaliation for workers exercising their legal rights.
  • Scott also supported a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that determined that immigrant, Native American and LGBT women should be afforded no protections at all, as noted here.
  • Oh, and Scott also helped slash South Carolina’s HIV/AIDS budget and defended billions in subsidies to Big Oil. He also floated the idea of impeaching Obama over the 2011 debt ceiling nonsense (which led to the sequester, let’s not forget, in which “Man Tan” Boehner said he got “98 percent” of everything he wanted). And while he sat on the Charleston (SC) County Council, he wanted to spend an unlimited amount of money to display the Ten Commandments outside of a government building (all of this awfulness is noted here).

    In conclusion, I’d like to point out that I think Harry Reid is wrong. Scott and his pals don’t oppose Obama because he’s black.

    It’s merely because he’s a Democrat.


  • Wednesday Mashup (7/17/13)

    July 18, 2013
  • Part of me truly wanted to avoid this recent column by Stu Bykofsky, but I believe it is too rank to be ignored (on the matter of PA AG Kathleen Kane’s decision not to enforce the commonwealth’s indefensible Defense of Marriage Act)…

    It doesn’t matter whether you support or oppose gay marriage, this is an issue of law, current law.

    The state Attorney General is substituting her own preferences to Pennsylvania law, which she is sworn to uphold. Ms. Kane doesn’t get to decide constitutionality, the courts do that.

    This is materially no different than George Wallace blocking the entrance to a school because he didn’t agree with the court knocking down segregation. It is different only in that we don’t like where he was, but (most of us) do like Kane’s position. But that it (sic) not the issue. The issue is obeying (and in Kane’s case) defending the law, even if not palatable.

    (Frankly, couldn’t she just have assigned a low-ranking, inexperienced attorney, who would botch the job? She could have. I think she is show-boating here.)

    In response, I give you the following from here

    In a public statement on Thursday, Kane said, “I cannot ethically defend the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s version of DOMA where I believe it to be wholly unconstitutional,” adding, “It is my duty under the Commonwealth Attorneys Act whenever I determine it is in the best interest of the Commonwealth to authorize the Office of General Counsel to defend the state in litigation. Additionally, it is a lawyer’s ethical obligation under Pennsylvania’s Rules of Professional Conduct to withdraw from a case in which the lawyer has a fundamental disagreement with the client.”

    So Kane didn’t kill the case. Not at all! Instead, she rightfully disclosed a conflict of interest due to a difference of opinion, and passed the case along to Gov. Corbett.

    How many politicians do you know that disclose a conflict of interest? You can count that number on one hand.

    Oh, and paging “Byko” for this one…

    Kane also didn’t sabotage the case by accepting it and then giving it to a lackey – an awful suggestion that has been made by some.

    Instead, she took the high road and essentially recused herself and her office from handling the case.

    Kane’s decision is making national news. But it shouldn’t. She’s hardly the first attorney general to refuse to participate in a case involving this or any other hotbed social issue.

    Back when California Gov. Jerry Brown was the state’s Attorney General, he refused to defend California’s anti-gay-marriage measure, Proposition 8. Just last month, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed the case, ruling that those who defended Proposition 8 didn’t have legal standing to do so.

    Time will show very soon that PA’s DOMA law is unconstitutional, too – the same way that Loving v. Virginia declared that banning interracial marriages was illegal.

    And as far as “Byko” and the comparison between Kane and George Wallace (really?) is concerned, I give you this

    Of course, while similar on the surface (the law is involved?), Kane’s position isn’t really like Wallace’s at all! In Brown v. Board of Ed., the Supreme Court said that states could no longer segregate their own schools. In the Supreme Court’s DOMA decision this year, it was ruled that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is not constitutional, though doesn’t say the same about Defense of Marriage Acts passed in individual states.

    When Wallace stood in front of the University of Alabama in 1963, he was refusing to enforce a federal court order to allow three students with perfect qualifications to attend the school.

    Wallace_Katzenbach

    (And somehow, I find it hard to believe that Eric Holder or another Justice Department attorney would ever show up on the steps of the governor’s mansion in Harrisburg, arguing with Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett about whether or not straights should be allowed to marry, parroting this iconic photo of Wallace with Kennedy Justice Department lawyer Nicholas Katzenbach.)

    I will admit that there’s a bit of posturing by Kane going on here, since I’m pretty sure that she once claimed in her primary campaign against Patrick Murphy that the Attorney General didn’t have the right to decide which laws should be enforced. However, I definitely believe that she’s acting in the interests of the “greater good” here.

    Besides, Kane is, aside from the head prosecutor in PA, also the chief administrator of law enforcement. Given that, what kind of judgment would it show if she committed personnel and resources of her office, all on the public dime, to defending a law that, on the federal level, had recently been invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court?

  • Next, if we’ve recently suffered a gun tragedy or a miscarriage of justice of some type over guns within the last week or so, you can always count on John Lott to pop up with more demagoguery and misinformation to try and show that it’s all the fault of those dastardly liberals somehow (here)…

    Comments by President Obama, Al Sharpton and others surely stirred up the racial aspects of the case and appear to have led some blacks across the country to attack whites to avenge Trayvon Martin

    Really? Obama “stirred up the racial aspects” by urging calm? Before he presses on another ugly piece of propaganda for Fix Noise, Lott should actually try reading their web site once in a while (here).

    Also, Reverend Al said that the protests in the wake of the Trayvon Martin verdict were mostly nonviolent here, which is also borne out by this clip from Rachel Maddow here.

    Of course, this isn’t the first time that John Lott has either demonized African Americans or whitewashed attempts to marginalize them at the ballot box, as he did here, claiming that he somehow wasn’t able to name a single person who was disenfranchised from voting in the Florida 2000 presidential election.

    I don’t know what’s in the minds of these people when they concoct this garbage. And I really don’t want to know either.

  • Further, I got a bit of a laugh out of this item (here)…

    Ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) charged that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was engaged in “unprecedented data collection.”

    “The CFPB is collecting credit card data, bank account data, mortgage data and student loan data,” Crapo said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “This ultimately allows the CFPB to monitor a consumer’s monthly spending habits.”

    Crapo’s comments came just hours after the Senate voted 71-29 to end debate on the nomination of Richard Cordray to lead the CFPB. A final vote on Cordray’s nomination could come as early as today.

    I’d recently read comments from Mikey the Beloved to this effect also. And in response, let me ask this; who isn’t engaged in massive data collection these days (not approving it – just asking the question).

    And in defense of Cordray, I give you this

    Cordray replied that the credit card and mortgage payment data are widely available and are bought from companies such as Argus and from credit records, which the CFPB is using to work with the Federal Housing Finance Agency to construct a national mortgage database. “The information is not personal but is anonymized,” he said. “If people want to misunderstand and think that it’s invading privacy based on speculation, I’d simply say, that’s not what it is.”

    The bureau must gather such data if it is to prepare cost-benefit analysis of the structure of markets and to deliver reports required by Congress, he added. “If we didn’t, you’d be disappointed with us and rightly so.”

    Similarly, the CFPB’s consumer complaint database, which has accumulated nearly 100,000 complaints about lenders, does not risk disclosing personal data, Cordray said. The complaints are “scrubbed” of personal identifiers after confirming that the complainer has a commercial relationship with the company. “We use it to communicate to companies on how to improve, and to the public too,” he said. “We need more of this, not less.” He did promise Crapo a visit from his staff to clarify the bureau’s privacy safeguards.

    Also, while I’m on the subject of Cordray, allow me to congratulate him due to the fact that he was finally confirmed by the Senate as part of a recent deal “aimed at freeing up seven stalled appointments President Barack Obama has made to the consumer agency, the National Labor Relations Board and other agencies,” as the AP via HuffPo tells us here.

    And concerning the NLRB part of the deal, I give you the following whining from Sen. Charles Grassley here (from “Tiger Beat on the Potomac,” as Charles Pierce rightly calls it)…

    …Grassley (R-Iowa) said the decision to block Cordray ultimately helped lead to a deal that forced two previous nominees for the National Labor Relations Board to be replaced with new candidates as part of a broader Senate deal struck this week over how executive branch nominees will be handled going forward.

    “We got two illegally appointed NLRB people off the agenda,” he said. “It was pretty important when the court says somebody’s been illegally appointed that they don’t get Senate confirmation.”

    The two NLRB appointees in question, Sharon Block (a former labor counsel to Senator Edward M. Kennedy) and Richard Griffin (former general counsel for the International Union of Operating Engineers), had been serving on the board since January 2012, appointed by Obama during a Senate break after Republicans blocked their confirmations (as the New York Times tells us here).

    The “legality” of Block and Griffin’s appointments was decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit; as noted here, the court issued a ruling that, in essence, also retroactively invalidated about 300 other recess appointments of this type by prior presidents since 1981 (and of the three judges on the appeals court panel, one was appointed by The Sainted Ronnie R, one was appointed by Bush 41, and one was appointed by Bush 43).

    And I think we also need to recall the following from here

    When Obama took office, the NLRB only had two members. In April 2009, Obama nominated three people to serve on the NLRB – Mark Pearce (D), Craig Becker (D) and Brian Hayes (R). Yet Senate Republicans’ silent filibusters were effective in preventing a Senate vote on these nominees.

    In March 2010, Obama recess appointed Becker and Pearce to the board. In June, the Senate confirmed Pearce and Hayes, but continued to block Becker.

    When Becker’s recess appointment expired on Jan. 3, 2012, the NLRB didn’t have a quorum to make decisions. Confronted with Senate Republicans intent on undermining the NLRB’s authority, Obama made three recess appointments – Sharon Block (D), Richard Griffin (D) and Terence Flynn (R) – to guarantee a fully functioning board. These members joined Pearce and Hayes, who left the board in December 2012. (Flynn resigned after an ethics scandal in March 2012.)

    So basically, that’s the history of the Repugs doing their best to gum up the NLRB since Obama was first elected in 2008. In fact, they have such an animus towards the NLRB (how dare an agency of government create such a “burdensome” environment for business by allowing workers to present and seek redress of grievances??!!) that the House, apparently believing that the Senate would end up allowing the NLRB appointments, decided to make things worse on their own by passing the utterly odious HR 1120 here, which basically shuts down the NLRB altogether (Mikey the Beloved commendably voted No).

    Grassley should shut his proverbial pie hole on matters related to the NLRB and Obama’s recess appointments overall. The actions of his party may not have been illegal, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t stink to high heaven anyway (besides, based on this, it looks like Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao got outfoxed for a change).

    Update 7/18/13: And depressing though it is, here is more food for thought on this subject (to me the name James Sherk is a bit Dickensian).

  • Finally, I’m glad to hear that this guy is back on the air (here). I’m sorry that he will no longer be a political voice; I think that’s a monumental waste, but it was even worse for a reporter and broadcaster of his caliber to be effectively blackballed from TV journalism altogether.

    So good luck, Keith, and just bite your lip if the Texas Rangers make it to the World Series and Former Commander Codpiece starts strutting and yakking all over the place, trying to take credit for something he didn’t do, as usual.


  • Thursday Mashup (12/20/12)

    December 20, 2012
  • I guess this isn’t really “cutting edge,” but this person at The Daily Tucker extols the supposed virtues of whaling here

    There are few activities more pleasurable than whaling. Like chess, the task of hunting giant, seafaring beasts engages all of a man’s wits. But unlike chess, whaling brings man deep into nature, far from the distractions of civilization. That combination is unique — no other sport matches it. That’s why I have never felt more alive, more human, than when I’m whaling.

    Whaling is also great for the economy. During its peak in the mid-nineteenth century, the U.S. whaling industry employed tens of thousands of Americans. Now, of course, it employs very few. Not only would legalizing whaling create jobs, it would spark the revitalization of America’s whaling centers, like New Bedford, Mass., while lowering the price of the whale oil we use to light our lanterns.

    Why, then, do environmental groups and others oppose whaling? It’s simple: racism. Whaling has historically played a central role in many Native American societies. Tribes like the Makah have whaled for centuries and want to continue to do so today. But the anti-whaling bigots will have none of it.

    It’s also possible that anti-whaling activists are Confederate sympathizers who are upset about the Union’s employment of whaling ships during the Civil War.

    (By the way, the author uses the pseudonym “Scoops Delacroix” to avoid prosecution, as the bio tells us.)

    Well, I oppose whaling, and I can assure you that I am most certainly not a Confederate sympathizer (I believe I have a bit more of an appreciation for their point of view after reading “Gods and Generals” by Jeff Shaara, but to me, that still doesn’t absolve them of leading an armed insurrection against this country). And while I readily admit that I’m not perfect on the issue of race and other matters, I do not believe that I’m an intolerant person on that subject.

    As nearly as I can tell, every product that we could obtain from whales can be manufactured synthetically. I will go along with some limited whale hunting by undeveloped nations that would be closely monitored by an international regulatory agency, but that’s it (more information is available from here, and here).

    And I don’t believe that God commands us to throw a harpoon or two into an 880-pound-or-more mammal that could easily kill me if I ever came face to face with it in a large body of open water.

  • Next, I suppose it’s completely inevitable that we revisit the issue of guns once more, which we should do I realize – as noted here

    The incoming chairwoman of the House Republican Conference urged caution in passing new gun laws.

    Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), speaking in an interview with C-SPAN set to air Sunday, was asked whether it was time to review current gun laws in light of a shooting rampage in Connecticut.

    “We need to find out what happened and what drove this individual to this place,” McMorris Rodgers said. “I think we have to be careful about new —suggesting new gun laws. We need to look at what drives a crazy person to do these kind of actions and make sure that we’re enforcing the laws that are currently on the books. And yes, definitely, we need to do everything possible to make sure that something like this never happens again.”

    The text I highlighted above is one of the typical Repug boilerplate responses on this subject; more such responses are noted here; McMorris Rodgers’ is #4, which I want to highlight in particular…

    We only need better enforcement of the laws we have, not new laws. In fact, Congress has passed several laws that cripple the ability for current gun regulations to be enforced the way that they’re supposed to. According to researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, a series of federal laws referred to as the Tiahrt amendments “limit public access to crime gun trace data, prohibit the use of gun trace data in hearings, pertaining to licensure of gun dealers and litigation against gun dealers, and restrict ATF’s authority to require gun dealers to conduct a physical inventory of their firearms.” Other federal laws “limited the ATF compliance inspections” and grant “broad protections from lawsuits against firearm manufacturers and retail sellers.”

    By the way, as far as comments from a politician go on this subject, I thought this was pretty good; I honestly don’t mean to pat myself on the back, but I’ve been making noise about this for years, and incurring varying degrees of wingnut wrath for it – that’s just the price you pay, but my point is that, while it’s positive to add any voice in support, it’s terrible that it took the slaughter of white children in a well-to-do suburb to do it, whereas people of color in inner cities have been getting slaughtered for years, and I’m talking about all ages here, with nary a peep of outrage from a lot of these people who, quite rightly, are upset now (and in that vein, kudos to Bob Casey for this – a little late to the party, as they say, but at least he showed up).

    And by the way, you can learn about more “fun” involving Cathy McMorris Rodgers here.

    Also, on this subject, I came across this bit of soul-searching from Repug strategist John Feehrey, who has come to a bit of a realization on guns, or so he says.

    Well, I think the silence of Feehrey’s old boss on Capitol Hill, Dennis Hastert, speaks volumes. I realize that he hasn’t been in public life for a little while now, but I think he among others needs to answer for the fact that he supported reducing the waiting period for a gun from three days to one, co-sponsored banning a gun registration and trigger lock law in Washington DC (both noted here), and dragged his proverbial feet in allowing the assault weapons ban to expire in 2004 (here –Dem Rep Jan Schakowsky was absolutely prescient in her remarks).

    And sticking to our guns, so to speak…well, we know what Ann Coulter is, but I thought her drivel was particularly obnoxious here, extoling the supposed virtues of concealed carry laws (and citing more statistical misinformation from John Lott to do so).

    In response, Bob Cesca tells us here that, according to a U of P medical study, “people with a gun were 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault than those not possessing a gun.”

    Cesca also tells us the following…

    PROPAGANDA: Banning guns won’t stop mass shootings because of the outlaws, blah blah blah.

    REALITY: Once again, totally not true. Australia, May 1996, a lone gunman killed 35 people and wounded an additional 23. Subsequently, Australia passed a very strict gun control law that included a buy-back program that managed to recover 600,000 assault rifles and other arms — 20 percent of all the known firearms in Australia. There were no more private sales of firearms, there were stringent registration laws, and, as with other nations, you had to prove to authorities that you had a specific reason for purchasing a firearm. And no, according to Slate, self-defense wasn’t a valid excuse. What happened after that?

    Violent crime and gun-related deaths did not come to an end in Australia, of course. But as the Washington Post’s Wonkblog pointed out in August, homicides by firearm plunged 59 percent between 1995 and 2006, with no corresponding increase in non-firearm-related homicides. The drop in suicides by gun was even steeper: 65 percent. Studies found a close correlation between the sharp declines and the gun buybacks. Robberies involving a firearm also dropped significantly. Meanwhile, home invasions did not increase, contrary to fears that firearm ownership is needed to deter such crimes. But here’s the most stunning statistic. In the decade before the Port Arthur massacre, there had been 11 mass shootings in the country. There hasn’t been a single one in Australia since.

    One of the thoughts on my mind about this issue is as follows; we’re taught to do so much from a defensive posture in our lives, which makes sense since the need for protection is self-evident. Here is one example; any driving instructor worth his or her salt tells the student to drive defensively and try to avoid situations that could lead to auto accidents.

    Well, why don’t we apply that thinking to guns? Buying more guns is taking an aggressive posture that could (and often does) lead to violent behavior. I mean, going back to the driving analogy, we’re not taught that looking for ways to cause accidents will make us safer, are we?

    (At least, I hope not.)

    And by the way, kudos to the mayor of Bridgeport, CT near Newtown for this; instead of destroying the guns, he should send them to Texas (removing my tongue from my cheek).

  • Continuing, there are those on our side who claim that President Obama received a “mandate” with 51 percent of the popular vote (I don’t agree with that, thought I wish it were true, and he should govern like he did anyway), which kicked off another round of wingnut caterwauling, as noted here.

    Funny how many of those same folks believed that a certain Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History had a “mandate” also with the same percentage when he was re-elected, as noted here (and I definitely didn’t agree with that either).

  • Finally (and on a somewhat related note), I give you the following from a former half-term-before-she-quit-to-cash-in governor of Alaska here

    When asked last night by Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren about Time magazine’s selection of President Obama as the 2012 person of the year, Palin responds, “Time magazine, you know, I think there’s some irrelevancy there, to tell you the truth. I mean, consider their list of the most influential people in the country and the world—some who have made that list: yours truly. That ought to tell you something right there regarding the credence that we should give Time magazine and their list of people.”

    This may come as a shock, but I actually agree with that.

    gwb_13-george-w-bush
    After all, in addition to Palin, this guy was also named Number One (and not once, but twice).


  • Thursday Mashup (8/6/09)

    August 6, 2009

  • From the “We Decide, Then Report” file, John Lott tells us the following from Fix Noise (here, taking an off day from compiling statistics on how much safer we would be if we all had assault rifles, no doubt)…

    Only in Washington could a program that is spending money 13 times faster than was planned be labeled a “success.” The “cash-for-clunkers” program ground to a halt last week because in less than a week, a program that was supposed to last until November 1, had spent the entire $1 billion allocated to it. Let’s just hope that the government takeover of the rest of the health care industry doesn’t result in similar “success.”

    Meanwhile, in the reality based community (here)…

    The Obama administration’s much-maligned “cash-for-clunkers” trade-in system has made an immediate and indisputable impact on the struggling U.S. auto industry, with consumers flocking to dealerships in numbers not seen in years and auto companies posting strong sales they directly attribute to the government program.

    Ford announced on Monday that their July U.S. auto sales were up a strong 2.3% over results from one year ago, a result that company executives linked to “cash-for-clunkers.”

    And as noted here, the Senate is expected to vote on authorizing $2 billion more of funding for the program today.

    Yes, I’ve read that this is expected to create a mini “auto bubble” also (funny – I wish more people noting that had paid attention to the housing and dot.com “bubbles” as well), with a likely dropoff to occur when the program ends, but who knows for sure? And how can it be a bad thing when the auto industry shows signs of life?

    As noted here…

    If the Senate approves the additional money, it’s likely to lead automakers to increase production and bring back laid-off workers. Many automakers reported low inventories due to increased sales from the program at the end of July. Already Hyundai Motor Co. has added a day of production to its Montgomery, Ala., plant, and Ford is considering increases.

    Ford’s chief financial officer, Lewis Booth, said Wednesday night the company would decide this month and make an announcement in early September.

    Among states, Michigan has taken most advantage of the program, requesting more than $44 million in vehicle vouchers. California dealers had requested nearly $40 million in vouchers, and Ohio had sought nearly $38 million.

    Senate passage would send the legislation to the White House for Obama’s signature and assure consumers there will be no interruption in the program that has led to packed car dealerships nationwide.

    The deals are aimed at boosting auto sales, which have been at their lowest levels in two decades.

    Which of course means that the program is opposed by the Repugs, including Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, a state which, to the best of my knowledge, manufactures no automobiles whatsoever (maybe armored, but that’s it).

  • As noted here, President Obama is going to visit Bozeman, MT next week to pitch health care reform. As this story tells us, this is the first visit of a sitting president to this area of “big sky country.”

    (And gosh, J.D. Mullane of the Bucks County Courier Times actually didn’t trash health care reform today, but wrote about a “missing ape sculpture” instead…insert your snark here).

    Maybe while Obama and his entourage are staying over, someone could remind Repug State Rep Michael More that introducing language in a bill that could be potentially interpreted to justify an armed insurrection against this country isn’t a good idea (here).

  • And the both the president and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are coming under attack for the following based on this (as if Obama doesn’t have enough to do – he’s been in An Oval Office for how long now? Six months and two weeks?)…

    President Obama got lots of attention last month for his drop-in visit to Ghana after the G20 meeting in Italy, where he blasted African leaders for misruling the continent and condemning its people to poverty and backwardness. “Repression can take many forms, and too many nations, even those that have elections, are plagued by problems that condemn their people to poverty,” said Obama. “No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy, that is tyranny, even if occasionally you sprinkle an election in there. And now is the time for that style of governance to end.”

    They were fine words. But not much else. Obama didn’t single out any particular leader for criticism, and he gave the speech in Ghana, one of Africa’s handful of functional democracies. In her own trip to Africa this week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit bright spots like South Africa, Cape Verde, and Liberia. But she also has a perfect opportunity to name and shame the continent’s worst leaders. There’s only one problem: she’s going to blow it.

    See how our corporate media cousins have moved from magnifying perceived misdeeds of the Obama Administration to now forecasting what they will do wrong instead; Newsweek must be in possession of tarot cards, tea leaves, an Ouija board, and maybe even Harry Potter’s wand…amazing!

    The article specifically singles out Umaru Yar’Adua of Nigeria, Mwai Kibaki, of Kenya and Joseph Kabila of the Congo as people who are particularly bad actors. And yes, Hillary Clinton has said here that not having a USAID agency head named by the White House is “frustrating beyond words.”

    But I think the following should be considered (from here)…

    The Obama administration inherited a foreign aid system starved of civilian experts and burdened by a bewildering array of mandates. USAID’s full-time staff shrank by 40 percent over the past two decades, but the assistance it oversees doubled, to $13.2 billion in 2008. The agency has a skeleton crew of technical experts, with four engineers for the entire world, Clinton noted recently. Increasingly, USAID has become a conduit for money flowing to contractors, who have limited supervision from the agency.

    As USAID has weakened, foreign assistance programs have proliferated across government agencies, especially the military, causing duplication and confusion. Meanwhile, aid budgets have been saddled with presidential directives, “buy America” provisions and congressional earmarks that raise the cost of aid and reduce its effectiveness, development specialists say.

    “In the USAID budget, every dollar has three purposes: help build an Air Force base, support the University of Mississippi, get some country to vote our way,” said the Rev. David Beckmann, president of the aid group Bread for the World, describing the plethora of political claims attached to aid. The development program, he said, “is a mess.”

    The waste of billions of U.S. reconstruction dollars in Iraq and the growing role of development in the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan have given new urgency to long-running debates about reforming the aid system.

    And as noted here (last year)…

    …the United States currently provides economic aid and security assistance to such repressive African regimes as Swaziland, Congo, Cameroon, Togo, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Rwanda, Gabon, Egypt, and Tunisia. None of these countries holds free elections, and all have severely suppressed their political opposition.

    Among the worst of these African tyrannies has been the regime of Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea. Obiang has been in power even longer than the 28-year reign of (Robert) Mugabe and, according to a recent article in the British newspaper The Independent, makes the Zimbabwean dictator “seem stable and benign” by comparison. Obiang originally seized power in a 1979 coup by murdering his uncle, who had ruled the country since its independence from Spain in 1968. Under his rule, Equatorial Guinea nominally allowed the existence of opposition parties as a condition of receiving foreign aid in the early 1990s. But the four leading candidates withdrew from the last presidential election in December 2002 in protest of irregularities in the voting process and violence against their supporters. In that election, Obiang officially received more than 97 percent of the vote (down from 99.5 percent in the previous election.)

    Though the U.S. State Department acknowledged that the election was “marred by extensive fraud and intimidation,” the Congress and the administration devoted none of the vehement condemnation that was so evident after the recent, similarly marred election process in Zimbabwe.

    One major reason for the difference in response is oil. The development of vast oil reserves over the past decade has made Equatorial Guinea one of the wealthiest countries in Africa in terms of per capita gross domestic product. Virtually all of the oil revenues, however, goes to Obiang and his cronies. The dictator himself is worth an estimated $1 billion, making him the wealthiest leader in Africa; his real estate holdings include two mansions in Maryland just outside of Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, the vast majority of the country’s population lives on only a few dollars a day, and nearly half of all children under five are malnourished. The country’s major towns and cities lack basic sanitation and potable water, while conditions in the countryside are even worse.

    During his most recent visit to Washington in 2006, Obiang was warmly received by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who praised the dictator as “a good friend” of the United States. Not once during their joint appearance did she mention the words “human rights” or “democracy.” At the same press conference, Obiang praised his regime’s “extremely good relations with the United States” and his expectation that “this relationship will continue to grow in friendship and cooperation.” None of the assembled reporters raised any questions about the regime’s notorious human rights record or its lack of democracy, instead using the opportunity to ask Secretary Rice questions about the alleged threat from Iran.

    Does Obama have work to do in Africa? Yes. Does our Democratic Congress? Uh huh. And our media? Bueller?

    Did Dubya have work to do? Next question.

    Now, Newsweek, since we’ve settled all this for now, can you just report stories like grownups again for a change?

  • And finally, this tells us the following…

    After a period of relatively low bankruptcy filings during 2006-07, U.S. consumer bankruptcies rose sharply in 2008 and continue to climb in 2009. Consumer filings reached 126,434 in July, the highest monthly total since the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA) was implemented in October 2005, and pushed the consumer total for the first seven months of 2009 past 800,000 filings.

    Just to refresh our memories, here are the brave souls who opposed this horrible law (all Dems)…

    Daniel Akaka
    Barbara Boxer
    Maria Cantwell
    Jon Corzine
    Mark Dayton
    Christopher Dodd
    Byron Dorgan
    Dick Durbin
    Russ Feingold
    Dianne Feinstein
    Tom Harkin
    Ted Kennedy
    John Kerry
    Frank Lautenberg
    Patrick Leahy
    Carl Levin
    Joe Lieberman
    Barbara Mikulski
    Patty Murray
    Barack Obama
    Jack Reed
    Jay Rockefeller
    Paul Sarbannes
    Chuck Schumer
    Ron Wyden

    And here are the cowards who supported it (Dems are noted)…

    Wayne Allard
    Lamar Alexander
    George Allen
    Kay Bailey Hutchison
    Max Baucus (d)
    Evan Bayh (d)
    Bob Bennett
    Joe Biden (d)
    Jeff Bingaman (d)
    Christopher “Kit” Bond
    Sam Brownback
    Jim Bunning
    Conrad Burns
    Richard Burr
    Robert Byrd (d)
    Tom Carper (d)
    Lincoln Chaffee
    Saxby Chambliss
    Tom Coburn
    Thad Cochran
    Norm Coleman
    Susan Collins
    John Cornyn
    Kent Conrad (d)
    Larry Craig
    Mike Crapo
    Jim DeMint
    Mike DeWine
    Elizabeth Dole
    Pete Domenici
    John Ensign
    Mike Enzi
    Bill Frist
    Lindsay Graham
    Charles Grassley (he sponsored it)
    Judd Gregg
    Chuck Hagel
    Orrin Hatch
    John Isakson
    Jim Inhofe
    Daniel Inouye (d)
    Jim Jeffords (i)
    Tim Johnson (d)
    Herb Kohl (d)
    Jon Kyl
    Mary Landrieu (d)
    Blanche Lincoln (d)
    Trent Lott
    Richard Lugar
    Mel Martinez
    John McCain
    Mitch McConnell
    Lisa Murkowski
    Ben Nelson (d)
    Bill Nelson (d)
    Mark Pryor (d)
    Harry Reid (d)
    Pat Roberts
    Ken Salazar (d)
    Rick Santorum
    Jeff Sessions
    Richard Shelby
    Gordon Smith
    Olympia Snowe
    Arlen Specter (d?)
    Debbie Stabenow (d)
    Ted Stevens
    John Sununu
    Jim Talent
    Craig Thomas
    John Thune
    David Vitter
    George Voinovich
    John Warner

    (And Hillary Clinton voted Present, which I think is questionable also.)

    A pox on those “Yes” voters for all time…


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