Tuesday Mashup (3/4/14)

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

    Neither does this.

    Nor does this.

    Nor this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    However, as noted here from last August…

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

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

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

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    Wednesday Mashup (6/26/13)

    June 26, 2013

  • Yes, we’re still dealing with the fallout from the latest travesty brought to us by the High Court of Hangin’ Judge JR (and by the way, it’s great that the DOMA was ruled unconstitutional, as noted here, but once again, Anthony Kennedy of the Supremes proved why, rightly or wrongly, he’s the most important man in America, or at worst a close second behind Number 44).

    As Think Progress points out here

    (Yesterday), the Supreme Court declared Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 unconstitutional. Section 4 is the formula which determines which jurisdictions are subject to “preclearance” under the law, meaning that new voting laws in those jurisdictions must be reviewed by the Justice Department or a federal court before they can take effect. Although today’s opinion ostensibly would permit Congress to revive the preclearance regime by enacting a new formula that complies with today’s decision, that would require a functioning Congress — so the likely impact of today’s decision is that many areas that were unable to enact voter suppression laws under the Voting Rights Act will now be able to put those laws into effect.

    More on this sorry development is here.

    Of course, the seamy underbelly of wingnuttia has cause to rejoice, and the once-mighty Journal of Rupert The Pirate does so here

    …as Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the Court, “history did not end in 1965.” In the 48 years since, those Southern barriers to voting have disappeared.

    Really? From here

    The jurisdictions that needed pre-clearance under a 1975 revision had a history of discriminating against certain minorities. They include a handful of Southern states, where African Americans faced discrimination, and a number of counties and cities in other states where minorities faced hurdles in voting rights, including two counties in South Dakota, five counties in Florida and three boroughs of New York City.

    And true to form, this tells us that, in “the land of the yellow rose,” a voter ID law and a redistricting map that discriminated against black and Latino residents (and likely would have failed the “preclearance” requirement of the Act) is now advancing through the state legislature (and this tells us that the same thing is happening in South Carolina concerning a voter ID law with the same background as the one in Texas).

    And in Alabama (here)…

    The state currently has at least one major voting law — a requirement that voters produce a photo ID at the polls — awaiting preclearance. The Star’s attempts to reach officials in Chapman’s office for comment on that matter were unsuccessful.

    Local officials are still unsure exactly what the ruling means for Calhoun County. County administrator Ken Joiner said he needed to consult with county attorney Tom Sowa for more insight on the matter. Attempts to reach Sowa were not successful Tuesday.

    Joiner said he didn’t have an estimate of how much money the county spent per year on preclearance for changes to the voting process.

    “There’s no way to tell,” he said. “You’d have to look at all the time spent on it, personnel-wise. But it does cost money, and it’s not a small amount.”

    And concerning Mississippi and North Carolina, I give you the following (here, and this tells us of similar developments in the “illegal to be brown” state of Repug Governor Jan Brewer).

    But before what was once called the “party of Lincoln” give themselves too many “high fives,” they might want to consider this

    The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a central provision of the Voting Rights Act will make it easier for Republicans to hold and expand their power in those mainly Southern states. That will, in turn, make it easier for them to hold the House. It will also intensify the Southern captivity of the GOP, thereby making it harder for Republicans to broaden their appeal and win back the White House.

    Heckuva job, conservatives!

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    And on a related note, please tell me once more that The Daily Tucker is both a “news” and “opinion” site and not just completely the latter, OK?

    Update 6/27/13: I forgot about Arkansas and Virginia, which are noted from here.

  • Next, OMIGOD! It’s OBAMACARE – RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!! (here)…

    As the Obamacare “train wreck” unfolds we continue to learn of the unintended, unnecessary, and burdensome consequences of a law passed without a single bipartisan vote in Congress.

    Despite the President’s promise of lower health care costs, premiums are rising for families and estimates show that because of Obamacare, over 7 million Americans will lose their employer provided insurance.

    In response, allow me to point out the following from here

    When one hears a title of a story like “Seven million will lose insurance under Obama health law”, the rule thumb is to first panic. Should not Obamacare have ensured that that would not occur? When one further dives into the story and realize that it means seven million will lose insurance provided by their employers and not insurability, it presents an excellent segue to discuss America’s healthcare insurance payment system abyss.

    It is likely more people will eventually lose their job-based insurance simply because companies may realize it is not only about the cost of the premiums they pay for their employees, but the inefficiencies of renegotiating healthcare insurance contracts yearly. They can get rid of their healthcare infrastructure (employees, space, and other overhead), pay a fixed “penalty” and have their employees all join an exchange.

    Basically, as the Kaiser Foundation tells us here, we’re talking about a likely decrease of 7 million in coverage over the next 10 years (Kaiser also tells us that 27 million are likely to gain coverage). And this appears to be true mainly because of the “fiscal cliff” deal towards the end of last year and also because more states didn’t opt for Medicaid expansion, including our illustrious commonwealth of PA under Governor Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett, as noted here.

    So yeah, this is pretty much rank propaganda from U.S. House Teahadists Larry Buchson (who proposed cutting the U.S. foreign aid budget to keep Navy fighter pilots in the air here), Trey Radel (who suggested impeaching President Obama over executive orders on gun violence here), and Phil Roe (who voted against funding for victims of Hurricane Sandy here).

    The model of employer-based health care served this country pretty well for a long time, but it’s a dinosaur. All the Affordable Care Law is doing is hastening the process of extinction, which will happen one way or the other.

    Update 6/27/13: And speaking of Corbett and health care (here)…

    Update 7/9/13: Corbett continues to be an utter embarrassment on this issue (here).

  • Continuing, this tells us the following…

    …over 50 non-profits across the country have launched National Employee Freedom Week, a national campaign which runs June 23-29 focusing on educating employees about all of their rights in the workplace.

    Writer Priya Abraham of the Commonwealth Foundation here in PA tells us in her column about Rob Brough and John Cress, two teachers who have apparently tried to cut ties with their union, to no avail (I don’t know the particulars of their case, and I haven’t been able to find out anything else about it, so I can’t really comment on it).

    What I can point out, though, is that the Commonwealth Foundation (as blogger Ben Waxman tells us here)…

    …is not a “government watchdog group.” It is the Pennsylvania version of the Heritage Foundation– a constant source of right-wing propaganda and misinformation. In the last few months, they have led the opposition to funding for mass transit, expanding healthcare coverage, and legislation designed to protect the rights of workers to organize. All of these positions can be found by looking at their website. Frankly, identifying an organization like the Commonwealth Foundation as simply a “government watchdog group” is bad journalism at best and completely disingenuous at worst.

    Oh, and the Commonwealth Foundation is also responsible for a monstrosity called “Project Goliath,” as noted here.

    And as noted here, Abraham and the Commonwealth Foundation are acting totally in concert with the interests of a host of right-wing organizations attempting to curtail workers’ rights in this country, including Americans for Prosperity (you can just draw a line right back to the Koch Brothers on that one) and the Heritage Foundation, among others.

    And as noted from here

    …every union member already has the freedom to leave his or her union, and keep in mind no one has to join a union to get a job—that’s the law.

    So what’s behind this latest stunt from the same folks who have pushed bills in state legislatures around the country to weaken workers’ rights and silence their voices in the political process?

    It’s pretty simple. Having fewer workers in unions really only benefits profit-driven CEOs and corporations. When workers have less of a say in their workplace, out-of-touch CEOs and corporations can cut costs and increase the bottom line by making employees work more hours for less pay and by offshoring jobs altogether. It’s a power grab by the same people who ship our jobs overseas and offshore their profits to avoid paying taxes—shifting the burden to the rest of us.

    Again, I don’t know what’s up with Brough and Cress, but somehow I have a feeling that their circumstance is yet another exception that the Repugs and their like-minded brethren are trying to turn into a rule (see Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queen,” among others).

  • Finally (and speaking of women), it looks like Cal Thomas at Fix Noise has the supposed solution to the Repugs and their electoral woes (here)…

    Republicans should place themselves on the side of giving more information to women, empowering them by making it law that they view a sonogram of their baby before they have an abortion. That could possibly lead to fewer abortions, the goal of pro-lifers, and likely make ineffective legislative measures unnecessary.

    OWWWW!!! THE STUPID!!! IT BURNS US!!!!

    So forcing women undergoing an abortion to view a sonogram of their fetus is “empowering”? Really???

    It should also be noted that Thomas is playing some word games here, and I need to clarify that a bit. I am definitely not a medical professional, so I checked to find out whether or not Thomas was really talking about a sonogram or an ultrasound procedure. As nearly as I can determine, they’re both the same thing; the ultrasound apparently has to take place (which can reveal a fetal heartbeat) to produce a sonogram (the hardcopy output of the result of the procedure, which does not of course reveal a heartbeat).

    So basically, we’re talking about an invasive procedure regardless. And to find out what happened when Scott Walker-istan tried to mandate an ultrasound prior to an abortion, read this. And to find out when Virginia tried to do the same thing, read this. And to find out what happened when our just-mentioned PA guv Tom “Just Look The Other Way” Corbett tried the same thing, read this.

    If Cal Thomas and Republicans as a political party really believe that they can legislate on the matter of the quality of women’s health care with impunity, then they will electorally “crash and burn” more severely than they can ever imagine, and it will be completely deserved.


  • Monday Mashup (1/21/13)

    January 21, 2013

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  • I give you some recent lessons in journalistic priorities from the Bucks County Courier Times:
  • On today’s front page, the banner headline has to do with the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court, which isn’t even today (the decision was handed down on January 22, 1973). That takes up the most real estate on the page.
  • Slightly below the middle fold is a reference to the fact that today is the observation of the holiday and day of service for The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Way, waaay down in the lower left corner is a wire service article reminded us that, oh yeah, President Obama is being sworn in for a second term today.
  • The banner headline and story on the front page yesterday had to do with a home invasion and killing in Hilltown Township, which of course is tragic and merits front-page treatment. Immediately beneath the story, though, is an article about all the pro-gun rallies on Saturday January 19th, with a picture of a woman taking aim at a target presumably on a firing range (the image and words communicate the impression that what you might call the gun culture is something to be admired…um, if they wanted to communicate that, couldn’t they do it some other way that juxtaposing it with a story about a murder on the front page?).
  • The fourth estate freak show drags on…

    Update 1/22/13: To be fair, I should note that the inauguration got the “full spread” front page treatment today, including a nice pic of the Obamas walking down Pennsylvania Avenue.

  • And I suppose it’s logical, then, to turn to this item from Mikey the Beloved (the story is dated from last April, but this definitely is a familiar refrain)…

    Members of Congress average annual salaries of $174,000 per year, according to the government.

    Taxpayers spend an estimated $111,000 per year on each lawmaker’s fringe benefits, medical coverage and pension.
    But all of that could be put on hold indefinitely, under a bill whose 40-plus co-sponsors were joined last week by Bucks County Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick.

    Fitzpatrick on Wednesday scheduled a media teleconference to urge passage of the proposed No Budget, No Pay Act.

    And the author of this gimmick, IMHO, is House “Democrat” Jim Cooper of Tennessee.

    However, since this Courier Times story comes from someone who is apparently an actual reporter as opposed to Mikey’s stenographer Gary Weckselblatt, we also learn the following…

    The federal government has several proposed budgets. The problem is no one can agree on them.

    In February, President Barack Obama released a proposed budget for fiscal year 2013. Republicans balked at the size of government programs and proposed deficit spending.

    In March, Republicans in Congress released their plan. The White House sharply criticized proposed changes to Medicare, Medicaid and food stamp programs.

    Last (April), U.S. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad signaled that no action was likely on any budgets until after the November election.

    So what could be wrong with Mikey’s “No Budget, No Pay” advocacy? Well, for starters, it could potentially violate the 27th amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as noted here.

    As Constitutional law professor Adam Winkler tells us…

    “The answer is unclear because the 27th Amendment has never been authoritatively interpreted by the Supreme Court,” Winkler said in an email. “Yet it seems almost certainly unconstitutional. Withholding pay effectively ‘var[ies] the compensation’ of lawmakers. The amendment doesn’t say only raises in pay are invalid. It refers to ‘varying the compensation.’ Just as a ‘bonus’ would vary lawmakers’ compensation, so does withholding money. This logic applies even if the pay is ultimately delivered to lawmakers. By outlawing ‘varying the compensation,’ the 27th Amendment prohibits laws that change when lawmakers receive pay, not just the amount they receive.”

    I see this whole thing ending up on the docket of Hangin’ Judge JR one of these days, and it’s anybody’s guess what will happen after that; wonder if he’d be in the mood for payback by letting the Repugs be dumb enough to cut their own pay, as well as that of everyone else in Congress, when you consider that Roberts has sparred with Congress (and the White House) over judicial funding, as noted here?.

  • Further, I give you the following absurdity from The Weakly Standard (here)…

    Since becoming the president of the United States of America, Barack Obama has delivered 699 speeches using a Teleprompter, according to statistics compiled by CBS reporter Mark Knoller. That number includes campaign speeches, State of the Union addresses, and everything in between.

    All told, according to Knoller, President Obama has made 1,852 speeches, remarks and comments.

    Obama’s given 35 “speeches in which he referred to Slurpees.” He’s held 58 town halls.

    The president’s gone golfing 113 times, playing 52 times close to the White House at Andrews Air Force Base.

    And Obama’s taken 13 vacations, which all told have spanned 83 days.

    These are the priorities for our corporate media as well as movement conservatism these days, my fellow prisoners: counting the number of times President Obama has gone golfing, how many slurpee references he has made in speeches, and how many times he has used a Teleprompter (And yes, I know “fluff” pieces like this are not unexpected for the inauguration, but let’s hope it doesn’t get any lower than this, OK?).

    And vacation days? Really?

    As noted here

    President Bush spent 32% of his presidency on vacation.

    Bush passed Reagan in total vacation days in 2005 with three and a half years left in his presidency. Reagan spent all or part of 335 days in Santa Barbara over his 8 year presidency. Bush spent 487 days at Camp David during his presidency and 490 days at his Crawford, Texas ranch, a total of 977 days.

    When you add the days President Bush spent at Kennebunkport, Maine, he spent a total of 1,020 days away from the White House — close to 3 years. At 1,020 days, Bush was close to being on vacation more days than President John F. Kennedy’s total days in office (1,036). Representatives at the Nixon and Johnson Libraries indicate those two Presidents were on vacation less than 1,000 days during their terms.

    President Obama has been on vacation (now 83) days from 2009 to (2013). At the three year mark into their first terms, George W. Bush spent 180 days at his ranch in Crawford, Texas and Ronald Reagan spent 112 vacation days at his ranch in California. Of course, staff was around all three Presidents on vacations and all White House aides argue that the commander-in-chief is never “out of touch” with work.

    Sure, Dubya and The Sainted Ronnie R were never “out of touch” with work. Of course not.

    Yes, I know I’ve pointed this out before. Yes, I have no doubt that it will be brought up once more and I’ll have to repeat it again since the shame impulse is nowhere to be found within right-wing media (and when it comes to golf, who can forget this infamous Dubya moment?).

  • Finally (and speaking of the prior Bushco regime and our corporate media), this tells us the following…

    Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has joined CBS News as a contributor — just in time for inauguration coverage.

    Rice, who served as secretary of state during President George W. Bush’s second term, made her debut on the network’s “Face the Nation” program Sunday and will be included in inauguration coverage on Monday.

    CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager and president David Rhodes made the announcement Sunday, saying Rice “will use her insight and vast experience to explore issues facing America at home and abroad.”

    Steve Benen does a good job of reminding us about what kind of a job Rice did on behalf of Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History, but I think it’s important to recall the following also:

  • Here, she was accused by Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, defendants in an espionage trial, of being complicit while AIPAC allegedly dictated US foreign policy from 1999 until the middle of the last decade at least (the post also links to a Think Progress post where Rice admits that Iraq is “a stain on her legacy” – ya’ think?).
  • Here, she “dressed down” a jewelry store clerk because Madame Rice thought he received less than stellar service (typical for the “pay no price, bear no burden” bunch).
  • As noted here, she was in the process of buying designer shoes while Katrina hit (terrible optics, if nothing else).
  • Condi and Defense Secretary Robert Gates met (in March ’08) with some of the Kremlin’s political opposition, but did not meet with its most vocal opponents, notably chess legend Garry Kasparov, as noted here.
  • Here, she gave, at the very least, a willing ear to Henry Kissinger, one of history’s most notorious liars, on the question of allowing troop withdrawals (or even the discussion of that topic) while Dubya’s Not-So-Excellent Adventure in Mesopotamia continued to disintegrate.
  • Rice said here that she had no interest in Mideast diplomacy to maintain “the status quo ante” while she was in the process of doing just that (here).
  • And yes, as alluded to earlier, Rice had a lot of company in her “hoocoodanode” mea culpa about 9/11, possibly her worst foreign policy failure of all (here).
  • It’s probably thoroughly naïve of me to feel compelled to point out that it’s not just any media organization that has agreed to give a pay check and air time to another Bushco accomplice, but the Columbia Broadcasting System (which was once called “the Tiffany Network”). CBS, which once employed the man who spoke the following words:

    If we confuse dissent with disloyalty — if we deny the right of the individual to be wrong, unpopular, eccentric or unorthodox…then hundreds of millions…who are shopping about for a new allegiance will conclude that we are concerned to defend a myth and our present privileged status. Every act that denies or limits the freedom of the individual in this country costs us the … confidence of men and women who aspire to that freedom and independence of which we speak and for which our ancestors fought.

    No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices.

    American traditions and the American ethic require us to be truthful, but the most important reason is that truth is the best propaganda and lies are the worst. To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful. It is as simple as that.

    We cannot make good news out of bad practice.

    We hardly need to be reminded that we are living in an age of confusion — a lot of us have traded in our beliefs for bitterness and cynicism or for a heavy package of despair, or even a quivering portion of hysteria. Opinions can be picked up cheap in the market place while such commodities as courage and fortitude and faith are in alarmingly short supply.

    Our history will be what we make it. And if there are any historians about fifty or a hundred years from now, and there should be preserved the kinescopes for one week of all three networks, they will there find recorded in black and white, or color, evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live.

    murrow_0
    Even though I’m curious to find out what he would have said, I’m still glad that Edward R. Murrow didn’t live to see any of this.


  • Some Thoughts On The Affordable Care Law Ruling

    June 28, 2012

    (Note: I am loathe to use the wingnut shorthand of “Obamacare,” which, I believe, belongs to Newsmax, Drudge, the Murdoch Street Journal, The Daily Tucker, NRO, and the other usual suspects, but NEVER on a lefty blog or a site that has anything whatsoever to do with the Democratic Party.)

    I just have some random observations here and not much of anything else.

    To begin, I have to admit that I expected the individual mandate to be struck down and the health care law to be basically maimed. The fact that it has been strengthened by The High Court of Hangin’ Judge JR (and with JR himself casting the deciding vote) is a cosmic wonder to yours truly (oh, and please explain to me again how Justice Anthony Kennedy is supposedly a moderate, since he basically wanted to can the entire law, as noted here?).

    However, something we need to remind ourselves (lost amidst all of the propaganda on this issue) is the fact that the Affordable Care Act is basically the product of a conservative think tank and a Republican former governor of Massachusetts (one Willard Mitt Romney, who of course is running away from that shocking stroke of common sense with all speed). It was borne from the fact that health care costs continue to rise for U.S. businesses and hurt competitiveness (to say nothing of the misery faced by the uninsured), and the Act, fully implemented, would make use of health care exchanges set up by the states with federal funds, with said exchanges being composed of private insurers offering competitive coverage at what should be affordable rates because of competition in that market for real at long last (really, when you think about it, this was a win-win for Roberts…he guts the individual mandate and the wingnuts love him, but he rules as he did today and helps businesses anyway while doing the right thing for a change).

    So, when you hear about Eric Cantor and the rest of his foul ilk saying that they will try once again to repeal it, as noted here (which they can’t do for the moment anyway, as noted here), try to imagine the horrific real-world impact of that action. And while you consider that, realize once more why it’s important to make sure the Democrats hold the Senate in November and President Obama is re-elected (if, God help us, the Repugs take over the entire federal government, this bit of good news won’t mean anything since they’ll abolish the Affordable Care Law once and for all – of course, electing Democrats in the House and re-installing a “D” trifecta among the executive and both legislative branches will enshrine the law even further).

    Oh, and speaking of the elections, I have a message for Kathy Boockvar (running against Mikey the Beloved, who has also pledged to repeal the law) and every other Democrat seeking federal office:

    Forget the polls saying “well, gee, a majority of the U.S. opposes the law, but they favor the provisions.” To me, the only way that cockeyed explanation makes sense is when you consider how our corporate media has completely and utterly FAILED to educate and inform its viewers and readers on this issue (here). It looks like, then, it’s up to Democratic politicians and filthy, unkempt liberal blogger types such as yours truly to try and right that egregious wrong.

    For now, though, we have a cause for celebration, as well as a huge sigh of relief.

    Update 6/29/12: Nail. Hammer. Head.


    More On The Supremes’ “Veni, Vidi, Ricci” Ruling

    June 30, 2009

    ladyjustice1As Think Progress tells us here (and I know we know the result already), Hangin’ Judge JR and The Supremes ruled yesterday in favor of firefighter Frank Ricci in his case against the city of New Haven (Mayor John DiStefano was also named in the action) for throwing out the results of a management test where African American candidates did not score well, whereas 17 whites and one Hispanic candidate did.

    We also learn the following…

    (Yesterday’s) ruling creates a new standard which says that an employer’s decision to toss out a hiring test must have a “strong basis in evidence” showing that the test preferred one race over another.

    (And by the way, kudos to Chuck Todd for this – h/t Atrios).

    Think Progress also notes that Supreme Court Nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor is thusly now under attack for having the decision of the Second Circuit Court of New York (of which she was a member) overturned. However, the Supremes, particularly under J.R., have the luxury of enabling new law (which they did by applying the new standard noted above), although all other courts, including the Second Circuit, were legally obliged to honor the existing standard under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (as Sotomayor did).

    It should be noted that both black and Hispanic firefighters recognized how racially divisive this case ultimately became; this New Haven Register story from earlier this month tells us…

    NEW HAVEN — A group of black and Hispanic firefighters and community leaders, who say they face common challenges but sometimes follow divergent paths, stood together in a show of unity Wednesday at a symbolic location in a melting-pot neighborhood.

    The announcement was what they called a newfound common ground between the two racial groups and an era of better collaboration, forged during a recent series of meetings mediated by the NAACP aimed at “healing,” said James Rawlings, president of New Haven’s NAACP branch.

    “We face a lot of things together as minorities, and for us, being divided and separate is not a good thing,” said firefighter Terry Rountree, vice president of the New Haven Firebird Society, a fraternal organization of black firefighters. “And from this day forth, hopefully, we can work together and just serve the city better in certain issues that we both deal with as minorities on the Fire Department.”

    That’s a positive development, particularly since Benjamin Vargas, the one Hispanic firefighter who took the test, had his results nullified also.

    Also, Linda Greenhouse, former Supreme Court reporter for the New York Times, tells us the following from here (in the matter of prior rulings that have “chipped away” at Title VII)…

    To understand the nature of the shift (represented by the Ricci ruling) requires a bit of history. Congress enacted Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the statute at issue in the Ricci case, with a simple command to employers: thou shalt not discriminate on the basis of race or other protected characteristics, including sex and religion. But the simple proved to be complicated. An employer of blue-collar workers in North Carolina, Duke Power, required a high school diploma of all job applicants, a requirement that screened out 88 percent of black men in that region at that time.

    In a 1971 decision, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a test that was “fair in form, but discriminatory in operation” could violate Title VII even without proof that the discrimination was intentional. Congress eventually amended Title VII to codify that decision, Griggs v. Duke Power. The rule was clear: if a job requirement produced a “disparate impact,” the employer had the burden of showing that the requirement was actually necessary.

    Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t take note of this shockingly sensible editorial today by the Philadelphia Inquirer (commendable stuff, actually), which takes the Supremes to task for the ruling and notes the following…

    …white firefighter Frank Ricci and 19 others cited (the ’64 Act) to allege reverse discrimination – and the court bought it. It did not matter to the court that Ricci and the other plaintiffs were not being denied promotions; they simply had to wait for New Haven to install a new examination that wasn’t biased.

    In fact, the reverse-bias lawsuit, in its five-year journey to the Supreme Court, delayed replacing New Haven’s flawed multiple-choice test with an exam that can better determine who should be a fire captain or lieutenant. Better tests, which include simulated tactical firefighting drills, are used successfully in other cities.

    The ruling casts a pall on all affirmative action, and confirms that judicial activist Chief Justice John Roberts is on a mission to end what he calls the “sordid business” of “divvying us up by race.”

    This makes the ruling by the Supremes all the more “muddy” since it let Title VII stand (fortunately), though it also managed to “make it harder for employers to comply with anti-discrimination laws” as noted here.

    Also, I thought Ron Walters of the Daytona Times made the following good points here…

    A section of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits the use of tests that would be used intentionally to discriminate, or tests that would be used without the intention to discriminate but would nevertheless have an exclusionary (disparate) impact. The continuing importance of this is that in 2007, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that discrimination charges involving test screening of job applicants have significantly increased due in part to security concerns raised by 9/11 and the economy.

    The Age Discrimination Act and Americans with Disabilities Act protects others from biased testing, in addition to African- Americans. So any change in the law that seeks to invalidate Title VII for Blacks would also affect others.

    However, it remains to be seen whether the High Court of Hangin’ Judge JR is on the same “mission” to “divvy up” the legal rights of the elderly and those dealing with disabilities as it is against African Americans.


    Of Mice And Men (And Soda Bottles)

    December 12, 2008

    ladyjustice1This New York Times story from yesterday tells us about Javaid Iqbal, a Muslim man from Pakistan who used to be a cable television installer on Long Island, who…

    …was among thousands of Muslim men rounded up after the Sept. 11 attacks. Some of them were considered to be “of high interest,” and they were held in a special housing unit of the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.

    While there, Mr. Iqbal said, he was subjected to daily body-cavity searches, beatings and extreme temperatures. He said he was kept in solitary confinement with the lights in his cell constantly on, that he was called a terrorist and a “Muslim killer,” and that he lost 40 pounds during six months in the special unit.

    He eventually pleaded guilty to identity fraud and was deported to Pakistan.

    As a result, he sued former Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller on the grounds that they “implemented the policies that led to the abuse and condoned it,” and the case is now being argued in front of The Supremes (with the predictable denials from Ashcroft and Mueller)…

    The two officials say that they are immune from suit, a contention rejected by the federal appeals court in Manhattan last year, at least at the most preliminary stage of the case. In the Supreme Court, the officials argued that Mr. Iqbal’s assertions that they were responsible for any abuses he suffered were speculative and lacked supporting factual allegations.

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested that a 2003 report from the Justice Department’s inspector general may “lend some plausibility” to Mr. Iqbal’s claims. The report found serious abuses by the (detention center’s) personnel.

    (Solicitor General Gregory G. Garre, representing Ashcroft and Mueller) urged the justices to ignore the report, saying it was outside the scope of the litigation. But he said the report had made findings helpful to his clients’ contention that their own actions, at least, were lawful.

    So…ignore the bad stuff in the report, but remember the good stuff that helps my clients, huh? Typical Bushco…

    But not to worry – this is the high court of Hangin’ Judge J.R., let’s not forget (we hear from Justice Breyer first, though)…

    Justice Stephen G. Breyer asked a hypothetical question: would a plaintiff be allowed to pursue a lawsuit against the president of Coca-Cola on the bare accusation that the president had personally put mice in soda bottles?

    Uhh….come again?

    Other justices engaged the question, considering whether such a lawsuit would be subject to sanctions on the grounds that it was frivolous and whether the company’s president would have to submit to questioning under oath at a deposition.

    “How are we supposed to judge whether we think it’s more unlikely that the president of Coca-Cola would take certain actions,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. asked Mr. Iqbal’s lawyer, Alexander A. Reinert, “as opposed to the attorney general of the United States?”

    WHAAA???????

    I don’t recall that the president of Coca-Cola has ever authorized “extraordinary rendition” or full body cavity searches of his competitors and then depositing them in a holding cell before they were eventually flown halfway around the world for God knows what kind of treatment.

    And apparently, the fog spread elsewhere in the court…

    Justice John Paul Stevens suggested that he was uneasy about lightly letting claims against high officials proceed, mentioning his majority opinion in Clinton v. Jones, the 1997 decision that allowed Paula Jones’s sexual harassment case against President Bill Clinton to go forward. A prediction in that decision about the burden the suit would place on the president — “it appears to us highly unlikely to occupy any substantial amount of petitioner’s time” — turned out to be incorrect.

    Ugh…so Stevens thinks that siding with the appeals court would entail “occupy(ing) (a) substantial amount of (Ashcroft and Mueller’s) time,” and that is the issue at hand, as opposed what could possibly represent a violation of Javaid Iqbal’s rights?

    Excuse me, but I hardly see the equivalency, particularly when you have stories such as this where the FBI has settled with a Muslim man accused in an attack in Spain to the tune of $2 million, and a German national sued the CIA for rendition and torture here (unpleasantly surprised that I have to point this out to someone like Stevens).

    Actually, I think Ashcroft and Mueller could help move this case to some kind of settlement (as opposed to the cost of arguing before the high court) and thus save valuable tax dollars if they made a simple gesture (particularly given the fact that the defendant’s name is apparently a common one, hence this mixup).

    How about an apology for starters?


    The “Hangin’ Judge J.R.” High Court Strikes Again

    November 12, 2008

    whales271005_wideweb__430x2760
    Simply put, the Navy won and the whales lost (here, and here is a prior post)…

    At issue in the 5-4 ruling was whether the Navy’s need to conduct exercises to protect the country from enemy submarines outweighed concerns raised by environmental groups.

    The case focused on whether the president had the power to issue executive waivers allowing such tests and whether federal judges can issue preliminary injunctions blocking them. The high court ultimately sided with claims of national security over environmental concerns.

    Those environmental interests, said Chief Justice John Roberts for the majority, “are plainly outweighed by the Navy’s need to conduct realistic training exercises to ensure that it is able to neutralize the threat posed by enemy submarines.”

    According to this article, here is what sonar does to the whales…

    …the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), established to protect marine life, appears to be aligned with the government-funded “experts” promoting low frequency active sonar (LFAS). They also appear to be ignoring required protocol in order to prematurely slip the U.S. Navy a permit to harass and kill whales which will serve as the green light needed to unleash this risky technology into full and unfettered, classified deployment.

    Eerily, the NMFS is also the organization assigned to oversee the testing done on the “beached canaries” stranding on our shores. Yet, while they publicly serve as the protector of marine life, behind the scenes they seem to prefer keeping these strandings in the category of an “unsolved mystery” to risking discovery of a possible connection to sonar exposure by checking their ears for rupture or their tissue for signs of explosion and shredding. Instead of conducting these revealing tests, they offer vague explanations that don’t hold up, while focusing their search for answers solely on viruses, red tides, and other toxic algae that were neither in the problem areas nor have caused this kind of cetacean carnage in the past. In view of this seeming bias in favor of LFAS and the dual role it creates for the NMFS, should they ever concede to test the ears or tissue of stranded marine corpses for sonar exposure, the public would be wise to insist that non government-funded and independent researchers bear witness to their exams.

    It’s also important to notice that the brain and tissue fissures, lesions, and ruptures as well as mass starvation consistently found in these and other recent marine mammal corpses resemble the symptoms of sonar exposure described by the Marine Mammal Commission when in 1997 they predicted that lung and tissue hemorrhage and trauma in marine mammals (and fish) as well as cavity explosion and hearing loss causing subsequent starvation was likely to occur if LFAS was employed worldwide as proposed.

    By the way, the acting head of the NFMS is Dr. James W. Balsiger, and the agency falls under the Commerce Department (headed by Carlos Gutierrez).

    I sincerely hope the incoming Obama administration and its new Secretary of the Navy invalidates this typically stupid ruling of The Supremes by deciding to conduct the exercises somewhere else.

    As a final thought on this, I should point out that we frequently read and hear in our corporate media that Roberts, Scalito, and Clarence Thomas (who continues to suffer under the apparently unbearable yoke of a Yale law degree), the most conservative members of the bench, are all Roman Catholics.

    They obviously need to brush up on the part of the Bible that says we should be “stewards of the earth.”


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