Thursday Mashup (12/20/12)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Cesca also tells us the following…

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

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

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

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

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

    (At least, I hope not.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Friday Mashup (11/30/12)

    December 1, 2012
  • To begin, let’s take on the “crazy” right away with Joseph Curl of the formerly Moonie Times (here – a little behind on some of this stuff, I’ll admit)…

    Sure, the president got his minions to drop the unemployment rate to 7.8 percent a couple months before the election (“See? It IS getting better!”). But bam, just like you can be sure that the one relative who drives you nuts will absolutely make it to your house for the holidays, new jobless claims skyrocketed right after Nov. 6, jumping to 439,000 — up 78,000 from the week before the election.

    Oh yes, that Kenyan Muslim socialist pre-zee-zint cooked the unemployment numbers to win the election. Horrors!

    I thought this was a good response to the Ohio/Pennsylvania thing; namely, the state unemployment numbers are a week behind the federal numbers, and the state numbers in question weren’t released until November 10th – the federal Sandy-influenced numbers were released on November 3rd, with New Jersey being the 3rd-highest state in unemployment behind Ohio and PA…a fortuitous break for Obama to be sure, but definitely not an “OMIGOD ANOTHER SCARY MUSLIM BLACK MAN CONSPIRACY!!!” (what matters is whether or not the numbers turn out to be a trend or an aberration, and how much the numbers are attributed to OMIGOD THE FISCAL CLIFF THE FISCAL CLIFF THE FISCAL CLIFF THE FISCAL CLIFF!!!).

    With all of this in mind, Joe Nocera defends the Bureau of Labor Statistics here against the charge (made by Jack Welch and other greed heads) that Obama cooked the numbers (and I thought this was a good response also, with the trend lines providing the key details).

  • Next, this life form at clownhall.com tells us of the supposed “job killing” FDA-required menu labeling guidelines for calories stipulated in Section 4205 of the Affordable Care Act (which allegedly requires chain restaurants with 20 or more locations, including franchises and perhaps some grocery stores, to post calorie information for all products on in-store menu boards).

    I’m not exactly sure how this could be deemed as an issue, since, as noted here, the FDA withdrew food menu guidelines as of January 2011.

  • Continuing, this article from the Murdoch Street Journal tells us the following…

    The former chief executive of Massey Energy Co. said in a rare interview that he has no immediate plans to return to the coal-mining business after a noncompete agreement expires at the end of the year.

    (Don) Blankenship has started a personal website and began posting again on Twitter.

    A controversial figure in the coal industry and West Virginia politics, (Blankenship) has largely kept himself out of the spotlight since retiring from Massey in December 2010, eight months after an explosion—the industry’s worst in 40 years—killed 29 workers at the company’s Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, W.Va.

    In recent weeks, the 62-year-old Mr. Blankenship has launched a red-white-and-blue-themed personal website and began posting again on Twitter, raising speculation that he might be preparing to launch a business venture or even a political campaign.

    Well well now, isn’t that interesting? Imagine the utter nightmare of a Senator Don Blankenship, people.

    In response, there’s a ton of garbage here on Blankenship, including telling us that he considers the science on climate change to be “humorous” (not surprising, given that Blankenship made his fortune in coal) and that mountaintop removal for coal mining is “small afterdamage”; we also learn that Massey disabled the mine methane monitors before the April 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners, so that the miners could “continue to run coal.”

    And speaking of the disaster, Massey under Blankenship also denied time off to the friends of the victims working at the mines so they could go to the funerals (nice).

    Gosh, the campaign slogan just about writes itself, doesn’t it? Vote for Don Blankenship To Risk An Unnatural Death While The Planet Slowly Suffocates.

    I’ll bet the Teahadists are already planning campaign rallies.

  • Finally, fresh off his victory over Dem Kathy Boockvar in the election a few weeks ago, I give you the following involving our wet noodle Repug PA-08 U.S. House rep (here)…

    Just two days after the November election, members of progressive groups filed into Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick’s office and called on him to oppose cuts to Medicare and Social Security as part of any budget deal.
    On Black Friday, as shoppers lined up at Oxford Valley Mall, many likely saw a 30-foot banner at the Woodbourne Road I-95 overpass, compliments of Pennsylvania Working Families that stated, “Tell Rep. Fitzpatrick: Extend the Middle Class Tax Cuts.”

    In the meantime, large labor unions took out radio ads targeting Fitzpatrick and fellow Republican Pat Meehan to renew middle class tax breaks.

    Election? What election?

    Oh, I’m sorry – I forgot to point out that this column was written by Mikey’s designated stenographer Gary Weckselblatt (who apparently believes, like a typical Repug, that election losers ought to sit down and shut up, since their opinion no longer matters, as if it ever did to begin with…oh, and speaking of “what election?,” I give you this).

    Continuing…

    (Fitzpatrick) said Obama’s plan to raise rates on the wealthy “presents American families with false choices that lead to more economic stagnation.”

    He called for a “grand bargain” that resolves not only the expiring tax rates but a fix to avoid the Medicare physician payment cuts and the looming debt ceiling.

    “I will vote for a plan which is bipartisan in nature that does not cost jobs,” he said. “My district demands we consider all the options, and to earn my vote any deal presented to Congress must present a vision for putting middle income families back on the path for stability and prosperity. And it must not cost jobs.”

    Earlier this year, the Senate voted to extend tax breaks for all but the top wage earners. The House voted to keep the rates for all.

    Asked if at the deadline he would support a version of the Senate plan to protect a potential hit to the middle class, Fitzpatrick said “call me then … you’re asking me a theoretical question.”

    What a profile in courage, my fellow prisoners.

    In response, 350 economists called for investment in jobs instead of “austerity” (which Mikey is basically calling for more of) here (including passage of the American Jobs Act, which continues to gather dust due to inaction from Mikey and his Repug pals in the House). And this is actually better evidence than the prior link that raising the top marginal rate would help job growth, not hurt it.

    And in a related story, as they say (concerning the “A” word), Pastor Gerson pontificates as follows here

    America is entering a period of prolonged austerity. The entitlement commitments made by past generations have been rendered untenable by demographics and health cost inflation. The problem is no one’s particular fault…

    Pardon me while I gag.

    For the reality point of view in response, former Reaganite Bruce Bartlett tells us the following here

    Because of the large deficits Mr. Bush bequeathed Mr. Obama – on Jan. 8, 2009, the C.B.O. projected a deficit for the year of $1.3 trillion that didn’t include any Obama policies – Congress was deeply reluctant to enact a stimulus larger than $787 billion, even though President Obama’s economic advisers thought that one at least twice as large was necessary to turn the economy around. The opposition of every Republican to the 2009 stimulus was a major factor in its inadequate size.

    By way of analogy, suppose you go to your doctor with an illness. He correctly diagnoses it and prescribes the right medicine, but for some reason you are given a dosage only half as large as required. The medicine was enough to improve your condition, but not enough to cure you. You remain sick although you feel better and will remain so until you finally get a full dosage of the proper medicine or your body is able to cure itself, which might take years.
    Note that in this analogy the medicine was properly prescribed; only the dosage was wrong. It would be incorrect to blame the medicine because you are still sick.

    The Republican economists nevertheless blame the medicine itself for the failure of the economy to respond to President Obama’s prescription.

    But it was Republican policies during the Bush administration that brought on the sickness and Republicans in Congress who have denied the economy an adequate dosage of the cure. Now they want to implicitly blame President Obama for causing the recession and the failure of stimulus to fix the problem, asserting that fiscal stimulus is per se ineffective.

    There is a word for this: chutzpah.

    I can think of some words myself, but I really do endeavor to keep this a profanity-free zone, so I’ll just let that go for now (and this tells us that the development by “no one’s particular fault,” according to Gerson, is hammering state economies). And for good measure, Professor Krugman chimes in as follows from here

    …the economic doctrine that demands austerity also rationalizes social injustice and cruelty more broadly, and how this recommends it to authority, rings especially true.

    We might add an insight from another 20th-century economist, Michal Kalecki, who wrote a penetrating 1943 essay on the importance to business leaders of the appeal to “confidence.” As long as there are no routes back to full employment except that of somehow restoring business confidence, he pointed out, business lobbies in effect have veto power over government actions: propose doing anything they dislike, such as raising taxes or enhancing workers’ bargaining power, and they can issue dire warnings that this will reduce confidence and plunge the nation into depression. But let monetary and fiscal policy be deployed to fight unemployment, and suddenly business confidence becomes less necessary, and the need to cater to capitalists’ concerns is much reduced.

    And Gerson actually has the utterly contemptible gall to use the words “austerity” and “morality” in the same sentence of his WaPo screed.

    By the way (returning to Mikey), I’m still waiting for The Treason-Alleging Liar to renounce his “no new taxes” pledge to Grover Norquist, who, last I checked, did not reside in Fitzpatrick’s congressional district (maybe Mikey could be spurred on by some of his Repug playmates who’ve found a collective spine on this issue, as noted here).


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