Tuesday Mashup (4/15/14)

April 15, 2014

equal pay

  • I know my “A” list “betters” have already pilloried Beltway media stenographer Ruth Marcus who said here in Jeff Bezos Daily that the Senate Dems’ language on equal pay for women is “revolting,” but I feel compelled to “pile on” anyway.

    And that is because what is really revolting is the fact that congressional Republicans have blocked the legislation Marcus ridicules three times now, including the occasion noted here from June 2012 (as the story notes, the equal pay issue sprung from the Lilly Ledbetter Law, passed and signed by Obama to correct yet another awful Supreme Court decision, this one limiting workers’ rights to sue for alleged pay discrimination – no word from Marcus on whether or not she thinks any of that is “revolting” also).

    With all of this in mind, I think it’s time to revisit the following lowlights from Marcus:

  • As noted here, Marcus also criticized Mary Cheney for supporting marriage equality (actually, opposing her sister Liz’s opposition to same, and yes, I know this puts me in the utterly weird position of actually defending a member of the family of Dick Cheney).
  • Marcus also said here once said that “80 percent of people with employer-sponsored health insurance would be unaffected” by a 2007 health care proposal from Dubya that would have led to smaller Social Security payouts for workers who participated.
  • She also sprang to the defense of former Bushie “Abu” Gonzales here.
  • Here, “Glenzilla” took Marcus to task in a discussion about NSA leaker Edward Snowden (yep, Greenwald is definitely someone who gives it to you straight, whether you like it or not).
  • Marcus had a problem here with recess appointments under Obama, but not under Dubya since her husband benefitted from it.
  • A whole bunch of stuff on Marcus can be accessed from here (some duplicate items I’ll admit).
  • It’s pretty disheartening to be a Dem when you don’t see your candidates mixing it up with the Repugs they claim to be running against, instead opting for some “sensible centrist” BS campaign that inevitably loses elections. And that is just fine with Marcus and her effete brethren, tut-tutting over that nasty rabble who dares to hold her to account while she hob-knobs with the “smart set” and politely asks to pass the sweet and sour shrimp.

  • And speaking of corporate media wankery, I give you this prize from Matt Bai (in the matter of “Wall Street Scott” Brown taking his act on the road to New Hampshire)…

    Constituency-shopping now isn’t only viable for a glamorous candidate like Hillary Clinton, an Arkansan by way of Illinois who followed RFK’s path to a Senate seat from New York. In a sense, most of our leading politicians now are carpetbaggers of one kind or another. Barack Obama is from Hawaii or Illinois or even Kansas, depending on how you look at it. Mitt Romney was a Massachusetts governor with a political base in Utah. The Bushes are from Maine and Texas and Florida.

    Yes, but not a one of them tried to flip from one Congressional seat to another representing constituencies from completely separate states, did they?

    Oh, and let’s not forget how Bai also once claimed that we lefties “demand…partisan government,” or something, here.

  • Next, it looks like Murdoch Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens is in a particularly crabby mood today, lashing out at Republicans and Democrats alike and basically arguing that Rand Paul should win the Repug presidential nomination (God, how can we seriously be talking about that already?) “because maybe what the GOP needs is another humbling landslide defeat” (here).

    See, our Pulitzer Prize-winning (ugh) scribe is mad at Paul (the junior senator from a state with eight electoral votes, as Stephens puts it) because the “ophthalmologist” criticized “Deadeye Dick” Cheney and the rest of Bushco for waging war in Mesopotamia to make scads and scads of dough for Halliburton (I think you can chalk this up to the broken clock that is right no more than twice a day).

    So how does Stephens put it?

    …It’s the signature question of every conspiracy theorist with an unhinged mind. Cheney. Halliburton. Big Oil. The military-industrial complex. Neocons. 9/11. Soldiers electrocuted in the shower. It all makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

    Is Stephens seriously trying to argue that the documented incidents of our soldiers electrocuted in showers in Iraq and Afghanistan (I must have slept through the scathing congressional hearings that took place over that one…right?) are instead the work of “every conspiracy theorist with an unhinged mind?”

    As repugnant as that false equivalency is, it is totally in character for Stephens, given his prior commentary on Iraq as noted here.

  • Further, this story seemed to come and go about the U.S. potentially allowing international control over domain names that used to be under our purview, but I thought it rated a mention (especially since that moonbat Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee was caterwauling about it in the House)…

    The “domain name system” is sort of like the phone book for the Internet—it’s the tool your computer used to convert the URL “Time.com” into the unique code of numbers and letters that are the actual address for this website—and it has historically been owned by the United States but administered through the international nonprofit ICANN. The Domain Openness Through Continued Oversight Matters Act (a name excruciatingly eked out of the DOTCOM Act acronym) would, if passed into law, prevent the Obama Administration from going through with its plan to permanently turn control of the Internet’s domain name system over to an international authority comprised of various Internet stakeholders. Under the DOTCOM Act, that handover would be delayed at least until the completion of a government study into the implications of such a move.

    I honestly don’t know enough about this issue to comment much one way or the other, but here is my question – how come there are so many congressional representatives on both sides who are apparently up in arms over a real or imagined threat to the Internet from non-U.S. “actors,” but these same folks apparently have no issue with the telcos running completely roughshod over any attempts to maintain a free and open internet in this country via Net Neutrality?

    Yes, I know the answer (ka-ching!), but I need to ask anyway.

  • Continuing, I haven’t bothered to find out what “The Pericles of Petticoat Junction” (as James Wolcott calls him) has been up to for a little while now, so I give you the latest from a certain V.D. Hanson here (looks like it’s more indignation over supposed liberal persecution)…

    What if you supported equality for all Americans regardless of their sexual preference, but — like presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008 and about half the country today — opposed making gay marriage legal?

    If you were the CEO of Mozilla, Brendan Eich, you would be forced to resign your position.

    Awww…

    The departure of Brendan Eich, as far as I’m concerned, was nothing more than the free market, so beloved by Hanson and his playmates, at work. And that would be the same free market that dispatched Martin Bashir from his job as an MSNBC commentator, even though he apologized for an inference about Sarah Palin that was admittedly sickening (matched only by Palin’s original comments about slavery).

    abughraibhood
    Oh, and as long as we’re talking about a supposed liberal “inquisition,” let’s not forget that this image (the closest thing to an honest-to-goodness, for real inquisition that I can recall) can be traced back to the foul, fetid Bushco reign, with that gang being comprised of anything but liberals.

    Besides, if Hanson honestly cared about free speech in the workplace, then he might want to read this column from Slate’s Jamelle Bouie on the subject, particularly the following…

    …let’s grant that…Eich’s forced resignation is an attack on speech, and that this is an ugly bout of bullying against someone who hasn’t expressed his views in the context of his job. If that’s true, then Eich is just the highest profile victim of a status quo that threatens countless workers.

    Title VII of the Civil Rights Act might protect workers from discrimination on the basis of their race, color, religion, sex, age, or national origin, but almost everything else is fair game for private employers who want to get rid of workers. Not only can you be fired for your political views—for sporting the wrong bumper sticker on your car, for instance—or for being “sexually irresistible” to your boss, but in most states (29, to be precise), you can be fired for your sexual orientation or gender identification, no questions asked.

    In any case, there’s nothing conservatives can do about Eich’s resignation. But they can join with labor activists and others to push for greater worker protections, like the Employee Non-Discrimination Act. For as much as employer flexibility is important to a dynamic economy, it’s also true that no one should fear firing for the people they love, the identity they claim, or the donations they make.

    Simply put, if conservatives are frustrated by the treatment of Eich for his role in Proposition 8, then they should be outraged by the treatment of ordinary people at the hands of the people who employ them.

    More on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is here, which has been introduced in congressional sessions for just about 20 years and has been stalled every time (the latest version has passed the Senate and is currently stuck in the U.S. House…shocking, I know).

    Update 4/16/14: And as long as I included that pic, here is an update.

  • On we go – this from The Daily Tucker tells us the following…

    Senate Republicans warn that President Obama’s new focus on agricultural methane emissions could mean a tax on livestock emissions — including cow flatulence.

    South Dakota Sen. John Thune and fellow GOP senators sent a letter to Obama administration officials urging them not to regulate livestock emissions as part of the president’s crusade against global warming.

    Obama’s “Climate Action Plan” would require the dairy industry to reduce methane emissions by 25 percent by 2020. The Agriculture Department, Energy Department and Environmental Protection Agency are set to put together a “Biogas” roadmap to reduce methane emissions.

    Republicans argue that Obama’s methane reduction plan could lead to “heavy-handed” regulations that would “have detrimental implications on livestock operations across the country.”

    The EPA is currently barred from regulating methane emissions from livestock production through an “annual appropriations rider” that expires every year. But this does not mean the EPA will not try again, warn Republicans.

    Of course, EPA head Gina McCarthy (as the piece tells us) said that the EPA has no plan to try and regulate methane emissions from “cow flatulence.” Which is a shame, actually.

    And that is because, as noted here, “cow flatulence and indigestion is really no joke: measuring and reducing methane emissions from all of the world’s livestock is a serious area of study.”

    Continuing…

    …there is general agreement that livestock farming worldwide is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions, producing 80 million metric tons of methane a year, or about 28% of global methane emissions from human-related activities.

    Meanwhile, researchers at the University of New Hampshire had to defend their $700,000 Department of Agriculture grant to study reducing emissions from cow burps at organic dairy farms, when it wound up on Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn’s list of the most wasteful government programs.

    Researchers in Argentina don’t think cow farts are a laughing matter either. They have strapped plastic tanks to cows’ backs in order to trap and measure the amount of methane each animal produces (a 1200-pound cow produced 800 to 1000 liters of emissions each day). With about 55 million head of cattle grazing on grasslands in its beef industry, Argentina has a significant stake in understanding this source of its greenhouse gases (which could be as high as 30 percent of its total emissions).

    And as noted from here

    Most of the planet-warming greenhouse gas pollution in the United States comes from carbon dioxide, which is produced by burning coal, oil and natural gas. Methane accounts for just 9 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas pollution — but the gas is over 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, so even small amounts of it can have a big impact on future global warming.

    So go ahead and keep making your “Apocalypse Cow” jokes, wingnuts, while our planet slowly melts, our waters dry up and we all choke to death on our own fumes. Heckuva job!

  • Kathleen_Sebelius_official_portrait

  • Finally, I just wanted to say thanks to departing HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who probably will get only a speck of the credit she is due for helping to ensure that the Affordable Care Act became law; millions of Americans have benefitted and will benefit by obtaining health coverage when they would have otherwise been denied, in no small part because of her efforts (I thought this was a well-done appreciation – this also).
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    Friday Mashup (9/20/13)

    September 20, 2013

  • Stop the presses! It looks like the Repugs FINALLY have their “alternative” to the Affordable Care Act (here)…

    Conservatives representing nearly three-quarters of the House Republican conference unveiled their proposed replacement for President Obama’s healthcare law Wednesday, delivering on a long-delayed GOP promise.

    The bill from the Republican Study Committee would fully repeal the 2010 law and replace it with an expansion of health savings accounts, medical liability reform and the elimination of restrictions on purchasing insurance across state lines.

    Ummm – well, in response, I give you mcjoan here

    To be fair, they include all the other non-reform reforms they’ve been rehashing for years—tort reform, buying insurance across state lines, high-risk pools—all the things that don’t actually don’t do anything to address the real problem in our health care system: the increasing, systemic cost of health care. But they don’t include any provision for lower-income people to purchase affordable insurance. They don’t include any of the popular Obamacare provisions, like young adults being able to stay on their parents’ plan or an end to lifetime limits on what insurance will pay.

    So what they’ve really got is tax cuts, as usual. But at least this time they’ll be for the middle class, too. So, progress?

    Because, when it comes to tax cuts (noted by Joan), never forget the following (and here is more wingnut mythology on this subject).

  • Next, did you know that Mikey the Beloved favored reinstituting a 21st-century version of Glass-Steagall (the Depression-era legislation insuring federal bank deposits and separating commercial and investment banking) in 2011 (here)?

    Of course, since we’re now in 2013…

    More than two-and-a-half years later, Fitzpatrick, vice chairman of the Oversight Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee, won’t commit to putting Glass-Steagall back in place.

    The Depression-era act was part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, which set up the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to insure bank deposits while Glass-Steagall put up a firewall between commercial and investment banks.

    “I support building a wall to protect taxpayers and protect banking customers, I absolutely support that,” Fitzpatrick said.

    But first he wants the administration to implement The Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform Act, which includes the Volcker Rule, proposed by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, to prohibit banks from risking institutional money in certain speculative investments.

    More Mikey flim-flam BS (and of course, I’m sure Mikey’s newfound ambivalence has not one thing to do with the fact that this legislation was first championed by Dem U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts)…

    As noted here and here, Mikey’s fellow Repug U.S. House brethren want to do away with both Dodd-Frank and the Volcker Rule. But of course, President Hopey Changey is supposed to ride to the rescue and save this country from Mikey and his same-party playmates in the House, right?

    And I’m sure Mikey would be cheering President Obama on every step of the way.

    Sure he would (and as a point of reference, this tells us who was right and who was wrong about repealing Glass-Steagall in 1999…it was a bipartisan failure – opposing it may have been Byron Dorgan’s finest moment).

    And in other financial news related to Congress, it looks like “Man Tan” Boehner and his caucus in the House wants to play chicken with our economy again over the debt ceiling here, even though, as noted here, he said on five different occasions that he wouldn’t do that.

    Oh, and did you know that Number 44 was responsible for this country’s decline in median income, among other downward numbers, according to something called CNS News here?

    Meanwhile, in the world of reality, it should be noted that median income in this country (for the rest of the 99 percent “rabble,” most definitely including your humble narrator) has been declining for at least the last 10 years (here – more on this is here).

  • Continuing, we have Repug U.S. Senator John Thune propagandizing as follows here

    South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune is calling for the Senate to end the Obama administration’s controversial green vehicle loan program in the wake of news that the Department of Energy is selling off the $168 million loan it gave to financially troubled Fisker Automotive.

    “The Obama administration has gotten into the business of picking winners and losers at a significant cost to taxpayers,” said Thune in a statement. “From Fisker and Vehicle Production Group, to the Chinese-owned A123, this administration should not be making questionable investments with the American people’s hard-earned money.”

    I wonder how many people know that the Fisker loan, as well as the loan program itself, stems from the ruinous reign of Obama’s predecessor (here)? And as noted here, Obama supposedly knew that Fisker was missing milestones in 2010, though neither of the docs mentioned in the AP story cited by Media Matters (and probably released to the AP by the Repugs) confirmed that.

    This is a bit of a rehash, I’ll admit; I already pointed out here, in a response to a WaPo column by that dim bulb Charles Lane, that it’s wrong to blame the Obama Administration for the Fisker loan (and besides, when you’re talking about federal loans to startups, some will pay off and some will go bust; what matters is the percentage of the former as opposed to the latter).

    And on the subject of “questionable” money decisions, this tells us that Thune, being a good little Repug from the Karl Rove/Grover Norquist template, sought to repeal the “death tax,” even though it mostly affected 0.1 percent of the households in this country. Also, Thune argued for more defense spending here, which, given how much we outspend the rest of the world, is beyond laughable.

  • Finally, this tells us the following…

    College freshmen that haven’t decided on a major may want to consider a degree in sales and marketing, medicine, health-care research and renewable energy to increase their odds of getting hired upon graduation.

    According to newly-released data from global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, jobs in these fields will be in high demand come 2018. What’s more, the firm finds that students who concentrate on math, science, engineering and technology will have the largest array of job options post-graduation.

    Concentrating on math, science and technology positions will help college grads secure work because these skills cover a vast array of positions in our jobs economy, says John Challenger, president of Challenger, Gray and Christmas.

    “When you get into fields that run across every type of company, it gives you such flexibility in your career,” Challenger says. “So many jobs today require people to have so much communication, through companies’ programs and policies, so that is very important as well.”

    I have no factual information to argue with this claims, but I would say that some context is missing here.

    Let’s start with this item, telling us that employers, five years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers that ushered in this era of economic calamity, are STILL pushing to increase H-1B visas for foreign, temporary workers. That’s one prong of the pitchfork, if you will, stabbing U.S. workers (both new and experienced) in the metaphorical “gut.”

    The other is offshoring, which really hasn’t been reined in much by Number 44 (here), partly because he has supported trade deals that make the problem worse (here), including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as noted here (an update is here).

    I know this isn’t an original observation, but it needs to be shouted from the mountaintops; we have a jobs crisis in this country!


    And with all due respect to our young men and women entering college (who, along with their parents, may benefit from reading this), whether or not you choose to major in a STEM-related curriculum or not won’t mean a damn thing until we start investing in this country once more and do everything we possibly can to resolve it.


  • Friday Mashup (6/21/13)

    June 21, 2013
  • I give you The Daily Tucker here

    Republican lawmakers renewed their push to scrap the federal estate tax this week, saying the move would create jobs and keep family businesses afloat.

    South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune and Texas Republican Rep. Kevin Brady officially re-introduced the Death Tax Repeal Act. The bill would immediately eliminate the estate tax and repeal the generation-skipping transfer tax.

    When I say that the Repugs keep coming back over and over and over with their bad ideas regardless of how truly bad they are, no matter how many times they keep going up in smoke (on the oft-chance that maybe, just maybe, this time will be different, and sometimes it is), this is exactly what I mean (and by the way, when the Repugs talk about a “family business,” here is the standard they use).

    For, as noted here from a couple of years ago…

    Estates larger than $5 million potentially owe estate tax in 2011. Only about 1 in 800 deaths will result in a taxable estate; 99.9 percent of deaths trigger no estate tax. The estate tax will raise over $10 billion from 3,300 deaths in 2011. [Tax Policy Center, accessed 6/29/11]

    (Preliminary estimates from the Tax Policy Center) indicate that the proposed estate tax would hit only 50 “Small Farms And Businesses,” defined as “[e]states for which farms and business assets comprise at least half of gross estate and total $5 million or less.” For these estates, the average tax rate is estimated to be 7.4 percent. For all estates affected by the tax, the average tax rate is estimated to be 14.4 percent.

    This tells us the following from last November…

    In short, only 20 new small farm and business estates would be affected by President Obama’s proposal (to increase the estate tax). The same report notes the effective tax rate is far lower than the headline 45 percent rate due to “special provisions targeted to farm and business estates.” Taking such provisions into account yields an estimated effective tax rate of 11.6 percent, which is lower than the current capital gains rate.

    And just for emphasis, Think Progress tells us the following from here (repeating some of the previously linked info)…

    Only the very richest households in the country ever have to pay the estate tax, since, (as of Nov. 2011), an estate must be worth more than $5 million (or $10 million for a couple) to pay any estate tax at all.…more than half of the estate tax (was) paid by the richest 0.1 percent of households.

    Oh, but Thune tells us that Repug econ guru Douglas Holtz-Eakin says that repealing the estate tax would create 1.5 million jobs, even though the study behind that claim was called “seriously flawed” by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (here).

    Gee, that doesn’t sound “optimistic, uplifting and nice” as BoBo once noted about “pretty boy” Thune (second bullet from here).

  • Next, I give you another metaphorical piñata that the Repugs like to whack at from time to time (here)…

    A sort of domestic Peace Corps, AmeriCorps was created in 1993 to place adult Americans in community service with nonprofit and public agencies, especially in environmental protection, health, education and public safety. President Clinton declared that AmeriCorps is “living proof” that “if we hold hands and believe we’re going into the future together, we can change anything we want to change.” President George W. Bush was a big supporter, too.

    Yeah, Dubya was such a “big supporter” that he just about wrecked the program; as noted here from a 2003 Slate article…

    The maiming of AmeriCorps infuriates its supporters. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Evan Bayh, D-Ind., (co-authors of another national service bill) have criticized the president for backing away from AmeriCorps when continued support became inconvenient. Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry recently trotted out his own plan for a massive increase in national service, suggesting AmeriCorps’ promise and failings could become a campaign issue in 2004. But if AmeriCorps can’t make itself accountable to Congress, national service may go the way of Lyndon Johnson’s “community-action”-minded War on Poverty and Richard Nixon’s Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, a jobs program abused by the states and killed off by Ronald Reagan. The graveyard of American social policy is abundant with similar decentralized programs that were killed off by horror stories of incompetence and mismanagement.

    Continuing…

    But the halo on AmeriCorps exists primarily because few people have examined what the corps and its members are really up to. The grandiose achievements of AmeriCorps have always been a statistical illusion, full of impressive-looking numbers of people and causes served, and yet—as the Government Accountability Office has pointed out—often missing evidence of real accomplishment.

    Consider the following recent activities:

    • In April, AmeriCorps recruits in Tuscumbia, Mo., released 70 blue balloons outside the county courthouse to draw attention to the plight of abused children.
    • In March, Providence, R.I., AmeriCorps members at the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence hosted a hip hop/poetry competition.
    • Members of a Nevada AmeriCorps program busy themselves these days by encouraging local residents to drink tap water and watch out for bears (“bear awareness”).
    • AmeriCorps members in Austin, Texas, hosted a trivia night in April at a local bar called Cheer Up Charlie’s to whip up enthusiasm for public service.

    There’s a lot of other anecdotal stuff listed here where James Bovard of the Murdoch Street Journal doesn’t bother to cite his sources, so I won’t try and do more of his homework for him – don’t know how much is actual fact vs. urban legend (he mentions something about puppet shows too).

    Continuing…

    During the Clinton era, scandals erupted after AmeriCorps bankrolled the left-wing community-organizing group Acorn and projects that engaged in blatant political campaigning. Federal law bans using tax dollars for advocacy. In 2011, a report prepared by auditors in the office of the inspector general with oversight of AmeriCorps criticized its management for policies that “leave no meaningful recourse against a sponsor that misuses [AmeriCorps] personnel.”

    I couldn’t find any citation from a reputable news organization for the Clinton/AmeriCorps/ACORN stuff, and again, Bovard didn’t provide one himself. And I’m mystified by the inclusion of the other quote, since it really isn’t a reflection of AmeriCorps as an organization or any AmeriCorps workers.

    Oh, and speaking of Number 42, when he wanted to build support for AmeriCorps when it faced a budget cut from congressional Republicans (sound familiar?), who did he go to for help? Why, none other than one-time Massachusetts Governor Willard Mitt Romney, who offered his support as noted here.

    Continuing…

    For most of Mr. Obama’s first term and until last year, AmeriCorps went unsupervised by a permanent inspector general at its oversight agency, the Corporation for National and Community Service. In June 2009, the administration fired IG Gerald Walpin after Mr. Walpin refused to back down from a report condemning a prominent Obama supporter, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, for misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars in AmeriCorps grants for his St. HOPE Academy. Mr. Walpin also stirred hostility with a report showing that the AmeriCorps role in one of its largest programs—the Teaching Fellows program at the City University of New York—failed to produce any positive results.

    There were other issues going on with Walpin, by the way, as noted here, namely that Walpin and his staff “did not include” or “disclose” relevant information regarding the case to (the office of U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California Lawrence Brown); that Walpin repeatedly discussed the case in the press after being advised “under no circumstance was he to communicate with the media about a matter under investigation”; and that Walpin’s “actions were hindering our investigation and handling of this matter.”

    Continuing…

    When it comes to measuring results, however, the program has always relied on Soviet-style accounting—adding up labor inputs and proclaiming victory. The Government Accountability Office criticized AmeriCorps in 2000 for this reason and rapped the organization again in 2010 for using performance measures that “do not demonstrate results” and are “poorly aligned” with stated goals. The GAO warned that the self-reported data from grant recipients was unverified and unreliable.

    Believe it or not, there’s a bit of truth to the “Soviet-style accounting” charge (only a bit, though). As noted here from the 2003 Slate article…

    The lack of basic information about how many members AmeriCorps had can be blamed on the agency’s decentralized management system and grant-giving authority. This was by design. Clinton had devolved control to state commissions, whose directors are appointed by governors, in order to win the program support from the governors. With cash rolling out to the states in massive annual increases, what was not to like? (Leslie Lenkowsky, named to run AmeriCorps under Dubya) favored such decentralization and wanted to devolve management still further. In a Weekly Standard article published a few months before he was named to run the corporation, Lenkowsky argued that AmeriCorps should be “voucherized,” with payments going directly to grantees rather than to the organizations that doled out the grants. He noted that this scheme might “dismay the auditors” but shrugged that worry off. Once in office, Lenkowsky never implemented his voucher scheme but remained faithfully indifferent to accounting concerns.

    AmeriCorps has garnered its share of wingnut umbrage over the years, including here, from Glenn Beck and Roger Ailes, of course, about how AmeriCorps is really a front for a civilian national security force, an army of Obama community organizers, or something. Prior to that, Pam Geller said that Obama is recruiting an army of 8-year-olds through AmeriCorps here. And Beck, prior to that, claimed that a NY law allowing convicts to work for non-profits had a tie to AmeriCorps (and ACORN!!!, of course) here.

    Here is my question, though: if AmeriCorps is supposedly so awful, then why did “Moon Unit” Bachmann allow her son to go to work for Teach for America (TFA), which is part of AmeriCorps, as noted here (and a commendable action by her son, truth be told).

    And as noted from here (towards the end of the .pdf), AmeriCorps is responsible for the following (from 1994-1996 alone)…

    Education

    • Taught 381,592 students in Head Start, kindergarten, and grades one to 12.
    • Tutored, mentored, or counseled 212,239 students in grades one to 12.
    • Organized speakers, presentations, field trips, or service-learning activities for 672,981 students.
    • Recruited, trained, or placed 145,168 peer tutors and community volunteers.
    • Developed curricula, assembled library collections, or provided instructional materials for 717,640 students.
    • Performed educational case management or conducted home visits for 138,151 students and their families.
    • Taught parenting skills workshops, GED classes, or job counseling workshops for 58,363 parents.

    Health and Human Needs

    • Constructed, rehabilitated, or renovated 1,485 low-income houses and provided housing assistance for an additional 22,843 people. Completed 60 new homeless shelters benefiting 1,422 people and placed an additional 18,687 homeless people in permanent or transitional housing.
    • Organized or packed 3,302,961 pounds of food and clothing, benefiting 591,769 recently homeless people.
    • Organized or staffed community health fairs attended by 1,505,773 people.
    • Provided child care for 42,926 children and their families.
    • Immunized 30,724 children and 4,833 adults.
    • Screened, counseled, or provided health information and services to 1,384,612 children and adults.
    • Recruited and coordinated 64,881 volunteers in support of these health and human needs projects.

    Environmental and Neighborhood Restoration

    • Rehabilitated or repaired 315 community buildings and 1,838 miles of park trails and roads.
    • Planted 22,455 trees in urban areas or rural towns and 80,727 acres of trees in parklands.
    • Restored or conserved 3,061 miles of rivers, beaches, and fish habitats and 90,729 acres or public lands and fowl habitat.
    • Repaired 266 dams or other flood-control systems and responded to 494 forest fires and search-and-rescue missions.

    Public Safety

    • Organized 887 neighborhood watches, recruited 9,511 child or senior escorts, and started 282 community policing programs.
    • Organized or conducted after-school sports and violence-avoidance activities for 93,169 students.
    • Conducted 3,371 conflict mediation and resolution programs.
    • Provided career development and community integration services for 5,346 adjudicated youth and 906 adults on probation.
    • Counseled 29,352 individuals about substance abuse and 74,421 individuals about victims’ rights or child abuse prevention.
    • Worked with 851 community groups to establish better relations and improve communication across racial and ethnic lines.

    I would say that that’s just a little more substantial than whining over puppet shows.

  • Finally, in their never-ending search for a person of color to bolster the claim that they aren’t just a party of elderly, disgruntled white people who are good at not much more than creating a lot of noise for no good reason, it appears that what was once called the “party of Lincoln” has settled on somebody else as the “flavor of the month.”

    And that person’s name is Elbert Guillory (and if your immediate reaction is “who?,” then you win a free commemorate crying towel used by John Boehner and Glenn Beck).

    The Daily Tucker explains here

    Elbert Guillory, an African-American state senator from Louisiana, recently became a Republican. And one week later, he released a video explaining his move — and urging others to join him in “abandoning the government plantation and the party of disappointment.”

    Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Guillory is a guy who believes it’s important that he announce to the entire world that he, formerly a Democrat, is now a Republican. Yawn.

    As noted here from last month…

    During debate Wednesday on a bill to expand Medicaid coverage in Louisiana, Sen. Karen Carter Peterson said fellow lawmakers had told her they based their opposition to the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, on the race of the president and not on policy.

    “The accusations of racism this week certainly helped push me over the edge. I thought that they were over the edge,” Guillory said in an interview Friday. “It just showed me just how far out of tune I was, I am, with the Democrat Party.”

    “Democrat” Party – bless Guillory’s pointed little newly Republican head. And by the way, suppose what Karen Carter Peterson said was actually true?

    Basically, Guillory has been, at best, a “lite” version of an actual Democrat for some time – as noted from here

    (Louisiana Gov. Bobby “Don’t Call Me Piyush”) Jindal’s proposal—through Guillory’s bills—to move from a defined benefit to a defined contribution pension plan (for state retirees) was a virtual clone of the “Defined-Contribution Retirement Act” model bill as drafted by ALEC at its New Orleans national convention last August, Guillory’s claims in his email to LouisianaVoice notwithstanding.

    But that was just one of the bills proposed by ALEC.

    A copy of ALEC’s complete proposed retirement reform legislation was obtained by Common Cause of Washington, D.C., which filed Freedom of Information Act requests for ALEC records.

    The ALEC proposals and those of Guillory in the Senate and Rep. Kevin Pearson (R-Slidell) in the House are nearly identical in most aspects.

    So, all things considered, it’s a little difficult to buy into Guillory’s braggadocio about his committee’s “hard work, no buyout by ALEC.” Nor do we agree that a “serious fiscal problem” was addressed in a “careful, responsible manner.”

    There’s a lot more in the Louisiana Voice post about Guillory, including his attempt to basically create two different categories of state workers: one for policemen, firemen and teachers (male pronoun meant to be all-inclusive, by the way), and the other category for every other type of state worker who supposedly doesn’t face “hazards” on the job.

    I suppose every politician out there is an opportunist of one type or another. The standard I use, though, is how often his or her interests end up coinciding with my own. And far from some newly-minted voice of sanity for the rapidly-declining-by-their-own-hand major political party in this country, Guillory appears to be nothing but someone peddling the same old snake oil in a slightly new bottle.

    Keep trying, Repugs (and I know you will).


  • Friday Mashup (9/14/12)

    September 14, 2012

  • Really, Foxies? Our embassies are being “overrun” (here)?

    Not according to this

    KHARTOUM/TUNIS (Reuters) – Fury about a film that insults the Prophet Mohammad tore across the Middle East on Friday with protesters attacking U.S. embassies and burning American flags as the Pentagon rushed to bolster security at its missions.

    The obscure California-made film triggered an attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya’s city of Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans on Tuesday, the anniversary of the Sept 11, 2001 al Qaeda attacks on the United States.

    In Tunis, at least five people were wounded by police gunfire near the U.S. embassy, and a Reuters reporter said a big fire had erupted within the embassy compound. Protesters had earlier leapt over the compound wall.

    Witnesses said Sudanese police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters to stop them approaching the U.S. embassy outside Khartoum, but some jumped over the wall. A Reuters reporter heard gunfire from the scene.

    In a related story, I thought this was a highly interesting development concerning the former “sugar daddy” of one-time Repug presidential hopeful Former Senator Man-On-Dog (somehow I have a feeling that Not Your Father’s Republican Party has a hand, however small it may be, in all of this anti-Muslim propaganda that has currently inflamed an area that is highly flammable already – fits in too nicely with the whole “October Surprise” mentality)…I think this is worthwhile reading on this subject also (Update: More good stuff from C&L here…worthy of a donation, I’d say).

  • And yes, we are indeed in the “silly season” when Frank Bruni of the New York Times can write about the recent Democratic National Convention and concoct the following (here)…

    AT their party’s ebullient convention last week, the Democratic politicians with an eye on the 2016 presidential contest were out in full force and almost in full stride, never mind that 2012 has yet to be settled.

    Martin O’Malley, the Maryland governor, popped up here, there and everywhere. Mark Warner, the Virginia senator, was nearly as ubiquitous. And Joe Biden made the fiery most of a prime speaking slot just before President Obama’s.

    But all of them knew that their efforts would probably be for naught and their aspirations in vain if a certain someone who was then half a world away decided to reach — again — for the White House. Like a poltergeist in a pantsuit, Hillary Clinton haunted Charlotte.

    I give you Clinton Derangement Syndrome on display, my fellow prisoners.

    And speaking of the Times (a bit late to clean out my “in” bin, I’ll admit), The Moustache of Understanding gives us a description of what constitutes a “hard working day” for our corporate media (here, singing the praises once more over how wonderful “globalization” allegedly is)…

    Technology and globalization are wiping out lower-skilled jobs faster, while steadily raising the skill level required for new jobs. More than ever now, lifelong learning is the key to getting into, and staying in, the middle class.

    There is a quote attributed to the futurist Alvin Toffler that captures this new reality: In the future “illiteracy will not be defined by those who cannot read and write, but by those who cannot learn and relearn.” Any form of standing still is deadly.

    I covered the Republican convention, and I was impressed in watching my Times colleagues at how much their jobs have changed. Here’s what a reporter does in a typical day: report, file for the Web edition, file for The International Herald Tribune, tweet, update for the Web edition, report more, track other people’s tweets, do a Web-video spot and then write the story for the print paper. You want to be a Times reporter today? That’s your day. You have to work harder and smarter and develop new skills faster.

    I’m sorry, but with all due respect to the many hard-working news professionals of the Times, Friedman really should shut his jowling yap over the supposedly heroic efforts of his fourth-estate brethren.

    Particularly when you consider this

    According to a recent survey from Millennial Branding and Payscale, Millenials really are most likely to be employed in service industry jobs. So, all those jokes about post-graduation latte pouring and t-shirt folding haven’t been in vain. And while it might be comforting to think of these jobs as necessary way stations on the path to an upwardly mobile future – especially if you’re someone who holds one – there’s mounting evidence that the American labor market may never return to its pre-recession composition. The future is already here and it brings with it low-wage temporary or contract work as a way of life.

    I know of at least one college graduate with a BA in education who can’t find work in our school district, so she waits tables at an Applebee’s instead. A friend of mine works for a company where someone with an MBA in finance was just hired as an executive assistant (her most visible job within the company appears to be filling up Outlook meeting calendars for the owner). Many of the folks living in the development of Le Manse Doomsy are never home because they’re either working at least two jobs or longer hours at one, or both.

    We have an employment crisis in this country. And we have had one for some time. And we’ll still have one whether or not President Obama is returned for another term or (God help us) Former Governor Etch-A-Sketch, Weather Vane Willard Mitt and Puppy-Dog-Eyes-With-The-Shiv take over this fall.

    So you’ll forgive me if I tell you that I don’t give a crap about what an allegedly hard time Tom Friedman’s fellow journos have it at The Times, what with having to labor under the oppressive yolk of “tweeting,” filming Web videos, reading other “tweets” and filing news reports with an occasional update before it’s time for happy hour.

    And all the while, Obama’s American Jobs Act continues to sit in the U.S. House for a year and counting (here), having been stalled by “Man Tan” Boehner and that sleazy weasel Eric Cantor.

  • Next, I have a little “compare and contrast” from a couple of days ago in the matter of Obama HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius; first, I give you Jake Tapper of ABC News (here)…

    President Obama was notified today by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel that one of his key Cabinet officials violated the Hatch Act, the law that restricts the political activity of anyone employed or holding office in the Executive Branch except for the President and Vice President.

    Carolyn Lerner, head of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel concluded that Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius violated the Hatch Act when she served as the Guest of Honor and Keynote Speaker at the February 25, 2012 gala for the pro-gay rights Human Rights Campaign in Charlotte, North Carolina.

    The event was billed as official travel, and she appeared at the event in an official capacity, but in her remarks – which departed from her official text – she advocated for the election of Lt. Governor Walter Dalton in his primary and general election race for governor, and for the re-election of President Obama, saying, “one of the imperatives is to make sure that we not only come together here in Charlotte to present the nomination to the president, but we make sure that in November he continues to be president for another four years.”

    After media inquiries following those remarks, the Department of Health and Human Services “retroactively reclassified the event as political,” the OSC report states, and reimbursed the federal government for the costs of her travel.

    When asked about her remarks in an interview with OSC investigators, the report says Sebelius “expressed regret for the statements” regarding Dalton “since there were ‘other primary opponents who were close by.’” She said her “‘shout out’ came across ‘as an endorsement.’” She allowed that her comments about President Obama were “a mistake” and an example of her again going “off script.” “I clearly made a mistake,” Sebelius said. “I was not intending to use an official capacity to do a political event.”

    Lerner did not recommend that any action be taken against Sebelius.

    On the same day concerning the same story, the Daily Tucker screeched as follows (here)…

    The Federal Times (a Gannett publication, I think) suggests that Sebelius may be fired for her illegal activity. “The finding could possibly cost Sebelius her job,” the outlet reported. “Although OSC did not recommend any specific punishment, and said Obama will decide how to punish her, Hatch Act violators are usually fired.”

    Dan Epstein, the president of good-government group Cause of Action, told The Daily Caller that since Sebelius is a Senate-confirmed presidential appointee, she isn’t entitled to a review from the Merit Systems Protection Board — one that that could reduce her penalty if she were a career staffer.

    “Sebelius doesn’t get (Merit Systems Protection Board – I guess Tucker doesn’t have any copy/style editors) Review so there’s no ability for the MSPB to lower the penalty to a suspension and the Board isn’t entitled to review,” Epstein said. “If Sebelius wasn’t a cabinet member or a PAS (Presidentially Appointed and Senate Confirmed) OSC would proceed by filing a complaint with the MSPB.”

    “Thus the point is that by Close of Business on September 12, 2012, the President has been informed of a Hatch Act violation and yet has decided not to fire Sebelius,” Epstein added. “The President has therefore decided to overlook the improper political activities of his appointees when in their official capacities. He has effectively said it is okay to politicize the executive branch.”

    WAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Oh, give me a freaking break! Sebelius was probably jet lagged or something and forgot where she was. Grow up!

    And I don’t know what the hell Cause of Action is (I hardly think it’s a “good government group”), but this tells us that Epstein recently alleged that there are 174 “secret” ACORN (!!!!!) organizations (cue the scary sounding background music – of course, in the world of reality, we know that ACORN no longer exists).

    Besides, as noted here, I’ll “see” Tucker Sebelius’s mistake and “raise” him Lurita Doan of the Bushco GSA, who actually oversaw Hatch Act violations, though she was too busy playing stupid in front of the House Oversight Committee under Dem Henry Waxman to be nailed without a subpoena.

    Update 9/18/12: Leave it to The Daily Tucker to double down on the stoo-pid here.

  • Continuing, I give you this choice nugget from Repug U.S. House Rep Joe (“You Lie!”) Wilson of South Carolina (from here, attacking President Obama on foreign policy…again)…

    President Ronald Reagan’s national security approach of providing peace through strength kept the United States and our allies safe for decades.

    I know the bar is already set pretty low for Wilson, but I think it’s particularly disgusting for him to invoke the memory of The Sainted Ronnie R a mere two days after we observed the anniversary of the worst foreign-based attack in our history, made possible in no small part because Number 40 decided to arm the mujahedeen in Afghanistan (including bin Laden) against the former Soviet Union (here).

  • Finally, it looks like Repug senators John Thune and Kelly Ayotte, among other culprits, are all aghast over President Obama supposedly not “leading” in the matter of increasing defense spending in his proposed budget (here).

    In response, this tells us the following from last May…

    The White House today reacted to news that representations of President Obama’s budget had been voted down by the House and Senate by decrying the introduction of the amendments, by Republicans, as “gimmicks.”

    “Gimmicks are not solutions,” White House press secretary Jay Carney emailed to ABC News. “The American people overwhelmingly support a balanced approach to our long-term budget challenges. That’s the approach the President supports. The sooner Republicans drop their intransigence and join the American people in supporting a balanced approach, the sooner Congress will be able to come together and reach a compromise.”

    I guess the Repugs figure that we’ll just forget about their playing political games at the behest of their campaign contributors as opposed to practicing actual governance for the benefit of the people they were ostensibly elected to represent.

    It would be truly depressing if it turned out that they were right.


  • Is Daschle Doing The “Health Care Hustle”?

    September 1, 2009

    large_daschle
    Deborah Solomon of the New York Times conducted the following interview with the one-time Obama HHS Secretary nominee in the Sunday magazine, in which we learned the following…

    DS: It has been reported that you’re a paid adviser to the insurance giant UnitedHealth Group, which opposes your belief that health care reform needs to have a public option. Why do you work with them?

    TD: On the left there are those who say that you should never talk to people who differ with you on a high-profile issue. My question to the left would be, whom would they advise these insurance companies talk to? Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin? That’s the alternative. They can talk to Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, or they can talk to me.

    Well, given that UnitedHealth Group has pretty much decided to do anything they possibly can to defeat the public option by claiming it will cost too much money (here), when in reality it will do the opposite (here, according to Daschle himself)…yeah, I think they should be talking to Limbaugh, Beck and Palin instead (to undermine their basically untenable positions, that is).

    And this kind of “hedging his bets” mentality is what bugs me about most Dem “centrists” such as Daschle generally and on this issue in particular (though I guess the instruction “from the top down” was for no “drama” on this issue, and that seems to be the way both Daschle and Kathleen Sebelius – the eventual HHS Secretary – have gone about it).

    The problem, of course, is that there was bound to be “drama” on this issue, a fight that has been simmering at varying degrees in this country for over 70 years. And I’d like to see Daschle drawing the same confrontational line that he takes against “the left” against some of his other “shareholders” on this issue (every time I see Democrats/progressives/liberals/whatever referred to as “the left,” by the way, I feel that we should all be harvesting grain in a field somewhere wearing red bandanas to capture the sweat of our brow and happily singing songs about the workers’ control of the means of production).

    But I digress…

    Meanwhile, Alison Kilkenny of HuffPo tells us the following from here…

    …it was Daschle who first introduced the idea of nonprofit insurance cooperatives as an alternative to the public option. Daschle and his good buddy, Blue Dog Kent Conrad, came up with the idea of insurance co-ops which included the concept of “triggers” that landed Rahm Emanuel in hot water with progressive groups like Firedoglake when he first floated the idea past the public. Basically, the trigger idea meant that the public option would only become a reality if state co-ops or other programs failed to meet certain cost and coverage goals within five years. The idea sank almost immediately thanks in large part to progressive watchdog groups. Now, Henry Waxman told Roll Call, “[Emanuel] doesn’t stand by the trigger…He said the president and his administration and he are for a public plan as one of the options.”

    Privately, Daschle tells his health care industry buddies that the public option is far from finalized. In order to calm the nerves of drug company executives, Daschle told them that “there is no consensus on whether there ought to be a public option.” As recent as last week, he told the hospital executives, “There is virtually no support among Republican members for a public option, and that remains an unresolved element of this debate.” Of course, Daschle is only concerned with support in Congress. Meanwhile, the newest polls indicated that Americans overwhelming(ly) support the idea of including a public option in health care reform.

    Given that, Daschle should remain as adamant about the public option (and its cost benefit) as he first was in the linked post above.

    I understand, though, that Daschle is a strategist, as Jed L. recounts in this Daily Kos post over what would eventually become the fiasco of Medicare Part D. However, I think health care reform calls for the “fire in the belly” approach of the late Sen. Kennedy (probably impossible to calculate the impact of his loss on this issue and so many others), as opposed to the calculated strategy of Daschle who, as Jed notes, wanted to pass the bill to help fellow South Dakota senator Tim Johnson in a campaign against John Thune in 2002, who of course would defeat Daschle two years later.

    (And by the way – and this goes for all Dems – I more or less came to accept that “single payer” wasn’t going to fly, but I never received an explanation to that effect from the party that has tried to pull off health care reform. That would have been a nice courtesy, if nothing else).

    I suppose part of what has spurred me on to say something is a recent episode of “Real Time with Bill Maher” where he criticized the Dems for not selling this issue as forcefully as the Repugs would for one of their pet causes. And though I realize that there’s a big difference between marketing something as complicated as health care reform as opposed to a war of choice in Iraq, I’m not sure that Daschle or the Dems generally have any idea of how to do the former (again, in a way befitting the Bush crowd, which was never shy about what it wanted).

    In closing, I should note that Solomon tells us that Daschle “felt liberated” when he left the Senate to the point where he decided to wear red glasses.

    Given that Tom Daschle has decided to bring the metaphorical knife to the health care gun fight on the matter of the public option (and doesn’t seem to understand those who came properly armed), I believe those glasses have somewhat of a rose-colored tint to them also.

    Update: In a related vein, as they say, I present this (hat tip to Atrios – I should link to John Cole more often).


    On Sotomayor, It’s “Lock And Load” Time For The NRA

    July 30, 2009

    kid-with-gun-sm
    In an example of still more gun-related cowardice by the Democratic Party, Think Progress tells the following from here…

    Noting Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s record on the Second Amendment, Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) told Roll Call that that he is “undecided” on her nomination to the Supreme Court (although he added that he is “leaning toward voting in favor”). Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) expressed similar uncertainty:

    Both senators’ equivocal statements come in the wake of the NRA’s decision to “score” the Sotomayor vote in determining where each lawmaker stands on the NRA’s pro-gun agenda. The NRA claims, falsely, that because Sotomayor once upheld a New York law against a Second Amendment challenge this somehow proves that she is hostile to gun rights. That decision, however, did nothing more than apply well-established law.

    Because lower-court judges are required by law to follow the commands of the Supreme Court, Sotomayor once joined an opinion which followed a Supreme Court case holding that the Second Amendment doesn’t apply to the states. Nevertheless, the NRA launched a smear campaign against Sotomayor this month, claiming that she “deliberately misread Supreme Court precedent to support her incorrect view” in this case.

    (It’s pretty sad when a Repug shows more courage than a Dem on the gun issue, by the way, as Lamar Alexander does in the Think Progress post.)

    Also, as noted here, conservative judges Frank Easterbrook and Richard Posner, both appointed by The Sainted Ronnie R, also held that the Second Amendment did not apply to the states in accordance with a prior ruling from Judge Sotomayor.

    All of this comes in the wake of the vote on an amendment sponsored by Senate Repug John Thune of South Dakota here which basically would have allowed an individual who owned a firearm in a state with looser gun laws to transport it to a state and use it – and thus supersede what could be tougher laws in the state where the gun is transported – as he or she saw fit (or, as Think Progress explained, “31 states currently prohibit ‘habitual drunkards’ from carrying guns. The Thune amendment would render these provisions useless.”).

    As the prior posted linked to above also tells us, the Thune Amendment was barely defeated in the Senate by a vote of 58-39; as noted here, Colorado Democratic Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet voted Yes, as well as PA’s own Bob Casey.

    To me, this prompts the following question: with “Democrats” like these, who needs Republicans?

    I realize that such laws pertain primarily to smaller caliber weapons, but I cannot help but wonder whether or not such an amendment by Thune or anyone else (assuming the dark day ever comes when it passes and is signed into law, thus ensuring my political opposition to any person responsible for such an atrocity, be they a Dem or a Repug) could somehow make it easier for someone to sneak a decidedly more lethal weapon (such as an assault rifle) into a public place.

    And with that in mind, I should note that last July 18th marked the 25th anniversary of the San Ysidro, CA McDonald’s massacre, in which James Oliver Huberty murdered 22 people (including himself) and injured 19 with a 9 mm Uzi semi-automatic (the primary weapon fired in the massacre), a Winchester pump-action 12-gauge shotgun, and a 9 mm Browning HP (as noted here by Wikipedia).

    I tried really hard to find some principled Democratic opposition to the NRA and the pro-gun forces in this country, but unfortunately, aside from Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York, I couldn’t. However, I was able to find the following from columnist Mark Shields here from last April, in which a legendary Repug with whom I frequently disagreed spoke what I would call “truth to power” on assault weapons…

    Washington and the leadership of both political parties in the city need a collective vertebrae transplant. Just listen to what one of the country’s great conservative leaders, the late Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., said about these assault weapons in 1990: “I am completely opposed to selling automatic weapons. I don’t see any reason why they ever made semi-automatics. I’ve been a member of the NRA. I collect, make and shoot guns. I’ve never used an automatic or a semi-automatic for hunting. There’s no need to. They have no place in anybody’s arsenal.”

    So much for the sportsman’s argument for assault rifles of the kind that the Binghamton (NY) killer used to fire, according to police, 98 shots in one minute.

    Shortly before Goldwater made his position so abundantly clear, the then-California Attorney General John Van de Kamp, a Democrat, stood on the floor of the Assembly in Sacramento holding in his hands an AK-47 semi-automatic weapon and said to the legislative body’s 80 members: “Ladies and gentlemen, take a look at your watches and start counting. You are lucky that I am the attorney general and not some nut. Because if I had the ammunition, I could shoot every member of the Assembly by the time I finish this sentence — about 20 seconds.”

    But 1994 will forever be remembered as the year when Democrats lost their heart for standing up to the gun lobby. The Democratic-controlled Congress and President Bill Clinton had enacted a ban on 19 types of automatic weapons. That ban had passed the House on a 216-214 vote, guided by the then-Clinton White House adviser (and now Obama White House chief of staff) Rahm Emanuel — and it was blamed by many Democrats for their party’s November loss, for the first time in 40 years, of House control.

    (By the way, I read the comments to Shields’ column, one of which chided him for not knowing the difference – as far as the commenter was concerned – between a fully-automatic machine gun and a semi-automatic rifle…as if that would have made any of the victims described by Shields “less dead” as a result.)

    And on the matter of the Dems’ ’94 loss of Congress owing to the assault weapons ban, I thought New York Times editorialist Dorothy Samuels made the following good points last May here…

    It is hard to make a case that the assault weapons ban was decisive in 1994.

    The law certainly enraged many N.R.A. members and might explain the loss of certain Democratic seats. However, there were other major factors in the Democrats’ 1994 loss, starting with perceived Democratic arrogance and corruption (overdrafts at the House bank came to symbolize that).

    Add to that voter unhappiness with Mr. Clinton’s budget, his health care fiasco, the Republican Party’s success in recruiting appealing candidates, and that ingenious Republican vehicle for nationalizing the elections known as the “Contract With America.” The contract, by the way, did not mention guns.

    Mr. Clinton’s successful 1996 re-election campaign actually stressed his gun control achievements. James and Sarah Brady spoke in prime time at the ’96 Democratic convention, and Clinton campaign ads trumpeted his role in enacting the assault weapons ban and the ’93 Brady law requiring background checks for gun buyers.

    And returning to the Shields column once more, I would advise Casey, Udall, Bennet and the other “chicken Dems” on this issue to read the following…

    President Obama has long been on record for a permanent ban on assault weapons. But one respected Capitol Hill Democrat, a longtime champion of gun control, despairs: “These (recent) killings have, unfortunately, not moved the needle.”

    What would be required to get this Congress to act? “It would take at least a major massacre of kindergarteners.”

    I can think of no more damning indictment of our politicians – and really, our country’s collective retreat on this issue – than that.


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