My 2014 U.S. House Voting Guide

October 23, 2014

(Subtitled “Fight The 40!”)

At long last, here is my 2014 U.S. House voting guide; sorry I didn’t get it out earlier, but there’s still plenty of time left to make a difference.

This started when I decided to highlight 52 U.S. House Republicans for the 52 (or so) votes to repeal the Affordable Care Law. That was for the 2012 cycle. Now, with representatives losing primaries and falling short when running for the U.S. Senate (as well as redistricting issues and retirements), the list has shrunk to 40 (if I had the time, I’d expand it, but this will have to do for now).

Another note – don’t be confused if you read about people highlighted in 2012 (most of the list) and see that they have a different number on the 2014 list from the 2012 one. Again, with all the changes, people were shifted around, added, subtracted, etc. For example, Marsha Blackburn was #31 on the 2012 list, but she’s #17 on the 2014 list (I’m not sure that moving up on a list like this is necessarily something to brag about, though).

So, with no more ado, here is the list:

No.

Repug Incumbent Dem Challenger
1

Steve King Jim Mowrer
2

Mike Fitzpatrick Kevin Strouse
3

John Boehner Tom Poetter
4

Paul Ryan Rob Zerban
5

Louie Gohmert Shirley McKellar
6

Joe Pitts Tom Houghton
7

Patrick McHenry Tate MacQueen, IV
8

David Schweikert John Williamson
9

Martha Roby Erick Wright
10

Pete Sessions Frank Perez
11

Trey Gowdy Curtis E. McLaughlin*
12

Cathy McMorris Rodgers Joe Pakootas
13

Chris Smith Ruben Scolavino
14

Kristi Noem Corinna Robinson
15

Hal Rogers Kenneth Stepp
16

Lou Barletta Andy Ostrowski
17

Marsha Blackburn Daniel Nelson Cramer
18

Blake Farenthold Wesley Reed
19

Diane Black Amos Powers
20

Raul Labrador Shirley Ringo
21

Tim Huelskamp Bryan Whitney
22

Peter Roskam Michael Mason
23

Scott DesJarlais Lenda Sherrell
24

Ted Poe Niko Letsos
25

Stephen Fincher Wes Bradley
26

Mo Brooks Mark Bray**
27

Doug LaMalfa Heidi Hall
28

Mike Coffman Andrew Romanoff
29

Ted Yoho Marihelen Wheeler
30

Markwayne Mullin Earl E. Everett
31

Mark Meadows Tom Hill
32

Renee Ellmers Clay Aiken
33

Reid Ribble Ron Gruett
34

Michael Grimm Domenic M. Recchia Jr.
35

Randy Neugebauer Neal Marchbanks
36

Mike Pompeo Perry Schuckman
37

Steve Southerland Gwen Graham
38

Mike Kelly Dan Lavallee
39

Blaine Luetkemeyer Courtney Denton
40

Lynn Jenkins Margie Wakefield

* – Libertarian
** – Independent

As I said, sorry it’s later than I would have preferred, but 11 days (more or less) is still time enough to work miracles.

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Friday Mashup (10/17/14)

October 17, 2014

mark-bio

  • By the time you read this, the sickening little demonstration noted here will be over (due to take place around midday today) – more follows…

    The video opens with the black-and-white footage of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s stirring clarion call for equal rights at the 1963 March on Washington.

    It quickly goes full color, and cuts to gruesome close-ups of the bloody remnants of abortions. It is fair to say that what is shown is disturbing.

    On Friday, the images will be displayed on a 10- by 12-foot screen set high on Independence Mall, the heart of Philadelphia’s tourism zone, as the antiabortion group Created Equal brings its high-tech assault on the practice to Philadelphia.

    The video, on a continuous loop, will be played from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., according to Mark Harrington, Created Equal’s national director.

    “It seems fitting to me that we are launching this campaign in the very place where our nation’s founders penned those words, created equal,” Harrington said. “We are still battling for equal rights. In this case, it is the pre-born who are being discriminated against.”

    I know there are individuals out there who profess to be “pro-life” and who indeed “walk the walk” as opposed to just “talking the talk,” and who have adopted babies, taken in single mothers in desperate situations, staged prayer vigils away from clinics and not interfered with the medically-related activity taking place (and of course not shouted epithets at anyone, thrown blood, tried to wreck cars, or any of that other stupidity, to say nothing of not writing ridiculous garbage in newspapers or calling into talk radio demonizing mothers seeking medical help). To me, those people deserve respect.

    However, most of these individuals in my experience (such as it is) are cut from the same disgusting cloth as Mark Harrington (pictured). And I think it’s particularly vile for Harrington and his ilk to even imagine that his escapades have anything whatsoever to do with the struggle for civil rights in this country.

    There is no good reason whatsoever for Harrington to engage in an activity like this (showing fetuses in the most grotesque situations imaginable, and probably some situations we can’t imagine), trying to force these images down the metaphorical throats of anyone visiting Independence Mall (including very young children, I’m sure), once of the more scenic places in the city (and the weather is nice today, so it should be busy), other than self-promotion.

    And yes, I have a particular axe to grind here because I can still vividly remember the seemingly never-ending pictures of fetuses in jars in the Catholic Standard and Times newspaper after the Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade in 1973, a time when I was still quite young and impressionable. As I’ve said, the images had an impact, but probably not the one the Church intended.

    Harrington has pulled this stunt before, by the way, including Turlington Plaza at the University of Florida (generating this response, including the following)…

    This has nothing to do with being pro-choice, pro-life or pro-anything. Regardless of anyone’s beliefs about abortion — and we all have an opinion there — does anyone feel it is acceptable to make students with abortion experiences feel uncomfortable on their own campus? No matter what the message, presentation is everything. In my opinion, a less-hostile open dialogue would be a more productive model of outreach. There must be another viable medium that doesn’t feel like an ambush. If I were considering abortion, or simply on the fence about my beliefs, these seemingly extremist people are not the ones I would consult.

    Created Equal executive director Mark Harrington says his platform targets “the mushy middle,” people who have no strong stance at either end of the abortion debate spectrum.

    I don’t believe such an audience exists on a university campus. If you do exist, on-the-fence folks, here’s my message to you: engage in civil, fact-based conversations with multiple people from both sides of the issue. Sharing beliefs and creating an open dialogue about social issues is a fundamental aspect of university life. One beauty of our campus is that it fosters constant exposure to new belief systems. No one here is naïve enough to want protection from opposing views. I imagine we all value them greatly. But this sideshow? It’s all a sensational stunt, an exhibition of the outlandish that serves only to needle young women into feeling guilty.

    To the members of Created Equal, thank you for voicing your beliefs and exercising your right to free speech. However, is it too much to ask that women with abortion history or those considering it presently have a peaceful walk across their campus without being confronted by grisly photos of fetuses on coins? Is there not enough humanity in your movement to recognize the benefits of a different approach? Judging from the pamphlets that were available at the exhibit, I know you have other media at your disposal.

    Regardless of my abortion views — which have probably become apparent anyway — it’s important to note these images are not from the typical procedure. Traveling pro-life groups are notorious for using photos of late-term abortions carried out for emergency reasons. Those interested should visit http://www.thisismyabortion.com/ for a glimpse of reality.

    Uh, yep.

  • Next, I don’t want to spend too much time on the waste of protoplasm that is Erick (“Son of Erick”) Erickson, but he concocted the following nonsense here (in a column trying to equate ISIS with the cases of Ebola in this country)…

    The Syrian rebels were too rag-tag and weak to take on ISIS, according to President Obama. But within a week of saying that, he announced to the world that his plan in Syria was to arm those rag-tag rebels and have them do our bidding against ISIS.

    Um…regardless of what you may think of the strategy of arming Syrian rebels against ISIS (not a good option as far as I’m concerned, but preferable to U.S. “boots on the ground”), doesn’t what Erickson describe above seem like a logical course of events? Where is the “there” there?

    It gets better…

    The president also told the American public that Ebola would never come to the United States.

    Not according to factcheck.org, which tells us the following (here)…

    Sen. John McCain claimed on a Sunday talk show that “we were told there would never be a case of Ebola in the United States.” Not exactly. U.S. health officials, early in the outbreak, said it was highly unlikely, but we could not find any instances of them saying it would never happen.

    This item from Fix Noise shill Jeanine Pirro doesn’t have anything to do with the Erickson column, but it does have something to do with ISIS, so allow me to add it here; namely, Pirro’s claim that Obama released Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, supposed head of this bunch of murderers, in 2009, which is categorically false. And as for Ebola, I guess what you would call of “clearing house” of debunked Ebola-related BS is here. And in conclusion on ISIS, I think this is definitely food for thought also.

  • Further (and sticking with Number 44), it looks like “liberal” Richard Cohen is at it again (here)…

    Tell me something: What do you think would happen if the United States concludes that Iran has been cheating and delaying and is about to pop a fully functional nuclear weapons program? Would President Obama respond by joining Israel to bomb the Iranian nuclear facilities to smithereens, or would he stall and equivocate? My bet is the latter and also, just to double down, what I bet the Iranians are betting. They have taken the measure of Obama. He lacks menace.

    Menace is essential in a world leader if he (or she) is going to be feared as well as admired. Obama falls into the admired category — the leader who won the Nobel Peace Prize with mere good intentions, a guy who had a new attitude toward Russia (a reset) and Iran (an approach) and China (a pivot) and, of course, to the Muslim world — an appreciation from a president who had broken the mold. We know him now as someone miscast: a rational man in an irrational world.

    I must tell you that I read over this a few times and thought “do I really want to say something about this idiot” (Cohen, I mean)? Isn’t life already too short?

    And then I thought to myself, sure, why not?

    For one thing, comments like this betray more of Cohen’s mindset than that of the world he supposedly knows something about. Because he apparently craves the “certainty” of a leader who, though perhaps catastrophically wrong, would act as if his thought processes are populated by fevered dreams of something called American Exceptionalism (I know you know who I’m talking about). And if this leader takes us into yet another catastrophic misadventure in the Middle East for no good reason…well, that means that Israel won’t be fighting alone now, will it?

    Call me just a filthy, unkempt liberal blogger, but maybe the reason we have an irrational world (I agree with Cohen on that much) is because we have too many irrational people in charge! And wouldn’t it be nice if we did a better job of recognizing people who actually have their scruples and act like intelligent adults in the face of onslaughts from all over the world (not saying to never question them, but just to try and support them when we believe it is necessary)?

    Given that, then surely Cohen would have noted long ago that Obama is “a rational man in an irrational world” and tried to make sure that his criticisms had at least some basis in reality, right?

    Well…

  • Here, he condemned the White House visit by the parents of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. soldier held captive in Afghanistan for five years, as “utterly repellent,” even though Cohen acknowledged that the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s capture are unclear.
  • Here, he embraced the “leading from behind” smear of President Obama (straight out of Drudge, Breitbart, and the like).
  • Here (as he does in his most current column), he makes a misguided push for a strike on Iran.
  • Here, he criticized Obama’s body language and supposed inability to “emote.”
  • Here, he wrote that Europe’s supposed view of Obama is that he’s an “accidental” president, among other nonsense.
  • (By the way, lots of other Cohen-related idiocy can be read from here.)

    Yes, I realize this is part of the whole pundit game about finding ways to be talked about. However, I honestly believe that Cohen thinks he’s right that our president should act in the manner and style deployed here (and no, I haven’t forgotten what led up to that). All to display “menace,” no doubt.

    How pitiably sad for Cohen not to realize that, were Obama to do such a thing, the rest of the world would surely laugh in his face.

  • Continuing (and speaking of pitiably sad), I give you former Ken Blackwell here on the matter of “biosimilar” drugs (more here…and this gives us a refresher on why Blackwell is such a miscreant – hard to believe that it’s been nearly 10 years)…

    Now, it is up to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to implement the biosimilar approval process. But millions of dollars have been spent on a lobbying effort from Obama’s crony capitalist friends on K Street to protect the interests of biologic drug markers. Initially, they were given a 12-year data exclusivity clause in the Obamacare law. But now, they are fighting through a questionable grassroots campaign, with the goal of distracting the FDA.

    These special interests are demanding unnecessary distinct naming rules for the ingredients in generic drugs, even though Obamacare does not allow for it. Americans with life- threatening diseases do not deserve to suffer thanks to these complicated and underhanded tricks by those in the pockets of Big Pharma.

    HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

    I hate to break the news to Blackwell, but both parties are in the hands of “Big Pharma,” as noted here.

    More to the point, this tells us that the 12-to-14-year window Blackwell criticizes “drew applause from CVS Caremark, whose EVP specialty pharmacy services, Dave Golding, participated in an FTC roundtable event on the issue” (the Generic Pharmaceutical Association agreed with Number 44 on this also).

    Not surprisingly, though, naming conventions for generics provoked this letter from 28 members of Congress who opposed the move; I believe the FDA recommendation on that was voluntary, by the way – hard to sift through some of the bureaucratic-ese (and the 28 who signed the letter are the same motley crew of usual conservative suspects, by the way). However, for anyone criticizing naming conventions for generics (which would bring them to parity with name brands, by the way) I have two words; Accutane and Sulindac (read from this link about the misery suffered by those who took these poisons).

    And from here

    “Regulation of these formularies is going to be a huge thing moving forward,” said Paul A. Calvo, a director in the biotechnology group at Sterne Kessler Goldstein & Fox. “I think as soon as the public heard there is very limited oversight in these areas, they went nuts.”

    Understandable as far as I’m concerned; background on formularies (basically, lists of prescribed medications for particular illnesses for insurance purposes) can be accessed from here.

    Oh, and speaking of “nuts” (and having to do with bioresearch a bit), I give you this.

  • Finally, I give you this from the Kevin Strouse campaign…

    Contact: Will Block, will@kevinstrouse.com, 610-400-3163
    For Immediate Release: Monday, October 13th, 2014

    Takeaway from Mike Fitzpatrick’s New TV Ad: Veterans Are Tired of Fitzpatrick’s Failures and Deception

    Fitzpatrick Voted Against Reducing the Veterans Disability Claims Backlog

    Bristol, PA – Last week, Fitzpatrick for Congress released its first ad of the general election. Unfortunately, the ad misleads voters about Fitzpatrick’s failed record on veterans’ issues. The facts show that Congressman Fitzpatrick has stood in the way of reducing the veterans disability claims backlog, and has voted against veterans’ interests on multiple occasions.

    The ad shows a doctor walking alongside a disabled veteran in a wheelchair. The exact footage used in the ad is available for purchase on http://www.istockphoto.com as “Man in wheelchair walking with doctor – Stock Video.”

    Strouse campaign spokesman Will Block commented, “This year, we saw Congressman Fitzpatrick jump onto a bandwagon with his colleagues to put a bandaid on a problem that he helped create in the first place. Disabled veterans are real heroes with real stories who deserve a Congressman that will fight for the care that they deserve — not some stock footage that can be purchased online. The fact that Fitzpatrick suddenly cares about the disability backlog, especially when he’s running against a combat veteran, is exactly what’s wrong with politics.”

    Fitzpatrick’s ad claims that he worked with a whistleblower this year to uncover the claims backlog at the Philadelphia Veterans Benefits Administration office. Well, the backlog is nothing new, and the Congressman knows it. In fact, in 2013 he voted against a motion which would have provided funding to hire more adjudicators to cut through the disability claims backlog.

    Block continued, “Fitzpatrick’s anti-veteran record speaks for itself. It’s especially egregious for Fitzpatrick to claim to be working to end the disability claims backlog after voting in 2013 against a measure to do exactly that. These issues at the VA are nothing new — unfortunately, they only seem to matter to Congressman Fitzpatrick in an election year.”

    BACKGROUND:

    Stock Footage Used in Fitzpatrick’s TV Ad: [www.istockphoto.com, Man in wheelchair walking with doctor – Stock Video]

    Fitzpatrick’s TV Ad…aired on 10/8/14:

    Fitzpatrick voted against quicker disability claims processing:

    In 2013, Fitzpatrick voted against a motion to recommit with instructions that would help reduce the backlog of disability claims for veterans. The amendment would add $9.2 million in funding (double the funds in the underlying appropriations bill) to hire an additional 94 claims processors to help reduce the veterans disability claims backlog. The amendment failed 198-227. [MTR on H.R. 2216, Vote #192, 6/04/13]

    Fitzpatrick voted to block the “Veterans Backlog Reduction Act”, which would
    direct the secretary to pay provisional benefits for claims that are still processing: [New York Times, 5/30/14; Vote #180, 5/23/13]

    “From The New York Times: Republican House candidates could also find themselves under pressure to explain their past votes against proposals for more money for veterans programs. Democrats were pointing to a procedural vote in May 2013, when House Republicans opposed a Democratic measure called the Veterans Backlog Reduction Act.”

    ###

    Kevin Strouse is a former Army Ranger, CIA counterterrorism analyst, and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who lives in Middletown, Pa., with his wife, Amy, and two young children, Walter and Charlotte. He is currently Program Director of Teach2Serve, a non-profit that teaches social entrepreneurship to regional high school students. He earned his BA from Columbia University and a Masters in Security Studies from Georgetown University, graduating with honors.

    To help with the Kevin Strouse campaign in the closing days, please click here.


  • Monday Mashup (10/13/14)

    October 13, 2014
  • In the latest TERRA! TERRA! TERRA! news, I give you the following from Joshua Katz here

    America’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, revealed the name last week of a top secret, very small Al Qaeda cell operating inside Syria called the Khorasan Group. The revelation by Clapper was the latest in a series of seemingly authorized disclosures of highly sensitive national security information by the Executive Branch.

    Khorasan Group isn’t a name that trips off the tongue. It isn’t sexy. It wasn’t appearing in newspapers and on websites every day. It wasn’t being talked about in Washington — until now. That’s because its name and organization were classified information. The fact that you had, in all likelihood, never heard of Al Qaeda’s Khorasan Group demonstrates the importance of the security placed around any information about this group and confusion in the White House about Al Qaeda.

    As a former Operations Officer for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and an Army Ranger, I have risked my own life to provide this level of secure intelligence to our president and other policy makers.

    Katz deserves our thanks and gratitude for his service, but if he’s going to criticize anyone for revealing what a supposedly secret bunch this outfit is (I know there’s nothing funny about terrorism, but the name of this gang sounds like a bunch of people making slipcovers), maybe he ought to blame some of his fellow wingnut media loudmouths too for saying that the group was made up (here); maybe if they’d kept their mouths shut, Clapper wound not have had to say anything (though, based on this, I wonder if this is a smokescreen too).

    Here’s my point to Katz and anyone else who blames Number 44 over this; make up your minds on what the narrative is supposed to be as far as you’re concerned. Either blame the Obama Administration for hyping a new terror threat that wasn’t there OR blame them for revealing sensitive information about these life forms. You can’t do both.

  • Next, I give you the following from WaPo conservative quota hire Jennifer Rubin (here), on Teahadist U.S. Senate embarrassment Mike Lee of Utah…

    (Lee) extolled Abraham Lincoln as the first great anti-poverty president. (“[I]n America’s original war on poverty, government did not give the poor other people’s money. It gave them access to other people. In Lincoln’s era that meant dredging rivers, building canals, and cutting roads. It meant the Homestead Act and land-grant universities. These public goods weren’t designed to make poverty more tolerable – but to make it more temporary. They reduced the time it took to get products to market, increased access to banks and land, and increased the speed at which knowledge could be developed and shared.”

    What Rubin describes above sounds an awful lot to me like spending on infrastructure, and as noted here, Lee introduced a bill to pretty much eliminate federal transportation funding (it even has an acronym that spells TEA – blow that dog whistle a little louder, why dontcha?).

    Lee is also leading a repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act (a perennial target for the Teahadists), the federal law that requires government contractors to pay workers the local prevailing wage (the Act is named for two Republicans, it should be noted, and it was signed into law by Herbert Hoover, a Republican president; I guess that’s typical for a guy who once said that child labor laws were “unconstitutional” here).

    Turning back to the “values” political red meat that the Teahadists love, Lee had no problem with the Supremes as “unelected, politically unaccountable judges” when they decided Hobby Lobby, but that’s what he thinks of them now that they’ve decided to allow rulings on marriage equality to stand (here).

    Oh, and speaking of our 16th president, he also said the following (noted here, tied to labor and the economy in general)…

    “While we do not propose any war upon capital, we do wish to allow the humblest man an equal chance to get rich with everybody else.”

    And as a commenter here noted (again, quoting Lincoln)…

    “Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital.
    Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed.
    Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

    So what do Lee and the Teahadists have to say about that?

    Cue the sound of crickets (and I don’t think we should need any motivation to vote for Dems in November, but in case we do, Rubin provides it here).

  • Further, someone from The Daily Tucker is (of course) in favor of genetically modified organisms (or GMOs for short) in our food, as noted here (more background is here)…

    I have to admit that I don’t have a ready comeback in response to the data presented in the Daily Tucker post, but I would only present the anti-GMO point of view here, including data on the money spent by food companies to lobby against GMO labeling in California and Washington state, where much of our food is manufactured and/or processed (additional data on the problems already being caused by genetically modified foods is presented here – and if GMOs are supposed to be so damn safe, then please explain this).

    (By the way, to their credit, ice cream makers Ben and Jerry decided to leave GMOs behind, as noted here).

    Another thing…as noted here, there is a correlation between the pro-GMO forces and the climate change deniers and the “anti-vaxers,” which I found to be a bit interesting.

    To conclude on this topic, I give you the following from this Jerry Rogers person at The Daily Tucker…

    Over four dozen pieces of legislation have been introduced in nearly 30 states to require GMO labeling. Three states actually have labeling requirements on the books. These states and the others that will follow suit will end up disrupting the nation’s entire food chain, from farming to supply to retail. Americans will suffer with higher food prices and fewer choices, but for other parts of the world stuck in poverty, the impact will be a devastating loss of human life. The stakes are high.

    Proof? Anywhere in sight??

    The politics of GMOs need to catch up with the science. There is legislation that may be a good first step in doing just that. Introduced by Reps. Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) and G.K. Butterfield (D., N.C.), the bill would preempt state laws and create national standards for food labeling under the sole authority of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Putting the issue of labeling under FDA authority will take it out of the hands of the anti-GMO activists. This simple act could reset the national debate over GMOs.

    I’m not totally surprised to read that when you consider this. However, how ridiculous is it that the pro-GMO people want to see federal regulation as opposed to a “patchwork” of state laws, when they favor the states over the feds on practically everything else?

  • Continuing, it looks like someone from The Daily Tucker is back to screech about the ACA (here)…

    Republican attorneys general have been administering the right medicine against this law since it was enacted. Just this week, a federal judge in Oklahoma agreed with Attorney General Scott Pruitt and declared unlawful certain regulations written by the IRS to implement the bloated statute.

    I don’t know what the difference between a “bloated” and a “non-bloated” statute is, and I don’t think this Jessica Medeiros-Garrison person does either. What I do know is that Pruitt and other wing nut AGs for their respective states are basing their opposition to the ACA on some bogus claim that subsidies for Medicaid expansion can only be used for states with state-established health care exchanges, not federal ones, which Media Matters called “a counter intuitive claim that has been widely discredited” here.

    Oh, and it should be noted that the federal judge who ruled in Pruitt’s favor, Ronald A. White, was appointed by George W. Bush (big surprise, I know – here). And as noted here, “to date, nine federal judges have considered this question of whether much of the law should be defunded. Only three — all of whom are Republicans — have agreed that it should be.”

    While doing some assorted Googling for this item, I came across the following on Jessica Medeiros-Garrison here (a lawyer based in Alabama for the record), and it turns out that she was in the middle of a messy divorce from her husband Lee Garrison a year ago; neither one of these individuals embody what I would call exemplary moral character (I merely present a link to the details here; it’s up to you, dear reader, to do the rest if you so choose).

  • Moving on, I give you some of the lowest of the low-hanging fruit here from someone named Michael Schaus who concocted something called “10 Things Liberals Believe That Government Does Well” (he added his categories with snarky little comments, so I think it’s only fair that I should be allowed to reply):

    1. Protecting our freedom

    So who do you think is going to train, feed, house, and maintain all other responsibility for the world’s largest (and most expensive) military (here) – the state of Alabama?

    2. Giving away land to common people

    As noted from here

    The federal government owns 655 million acres of land in the U.S., 29% of the total 2.3 billion acres. It administers its public lands through four agencies: the National Park Service (NPS), which runs the National Park System; the Forest Service (FS), which manages the National Forests; theBureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages public lands; and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which administers the National Wildlife Refuge System. National Monuments are assigned a managing agency at the time of their designation by the President. The Forest Service operates out of the Department of Agriculture, while the other three agencies are in the Department of the Interior.

    So yeah, I would say that the Feds do a good job in this area too.

    3. Educating everyone

    This provides a list of U.S. Department of Education funding as of August 25th of this year (if anyone out there is inclined to sift through all of these numbers and other data, have at it). And despite the Repugs’ war on public education in this country, students from overseas still flock to our universities, so I think the federal government does deserve at least a partial amount of credit for that, seeing as how the federal government subsidizes student loans and all.

    4. Helping us retiring (sic) with dignity

    As noted from here (under “Highlights”)…

    At the end of 2013, the (Operations of the Old Age Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance programs) were providing benefit payments to about 58 million people: 41 million retired workers and dependents of retired workers, 6 million survivors of deceased workers, and 11 million disabled workers and dependents of disabled workers. During the year, an estimated 163 million people had earnings covered by Social Security and paid payroll taxes. Total expenditures in 2013 were $823 billion. Total income was $855 billion, which consisted of $752 billion in non-interest income and $103 billion in interest earnings. Asset reserves held in special issue U.S. Treasury securities grew from $2,732 billion at the beginning of the year to $2,764 billion at the end of the year.

    Not too shabby as far as I’m concerned…

    5. Improving public health

    As noted from here

    New York, NY, June 16, 2014—Despite having the most expensive health care system, the United States ranks last overall among 11 industrialized countries on measures of health system quality, efficiency, access to care, equity, and healthy lives, according to a new Commonwealth Fund report. The other countries included in the study were Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand Norway, Sweden Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. While there is room for improvement in every country, the U.S. stands out for having the highest costs and lowest performance—the U.S. spent $8,508 per person on health care in 2011, compared with $3,406 in the United Kingdom, which ranked first overall.

    The United States’ ranking is dragged down substantially by deficiencies in access to primary care and inequities and inefficiencies in our health care system according to Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: How the Performance of the U.S. Health Care System Compares Internationally, 2014 Update, by Karen Davis, of the Roger C. Lipitz Center for Integrated Health Care at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Kristof Stremikis, of the Pacific Business Group on Health, and Commonwealth Fund researchers Cathy Schoen and David Squires. However, provisions in the Affordable Care Act that have already extended coverage to millions of people in the United States can improve the country’s standing in some areas—particularly access to affordable and timely primary care.

    To hear this Michael Schaus guy, though, “Obamacare” is the reason for our health care ills in this country, not our supposedly glorious private sector (and I think it needs to be pointed out once again that, notwithstanding Medicare/Medicaid and the VA, there is no government-sponsored alternative).

    6. Building our transportation network

    Oh yeah, what is that supposedly awful federal government supposed to do about that?

    Try this for starters (as well as the fact that the best the U.S. House Repugs could do is come up with some lame stopgap measure to keep the Federal Highway Trust Fund solvent, as noted here). So, that supposedly awful Kenyan Muslim socialist responded with this.

    7. Investing in communications

    This Schaus guy has a bit of a point here, but read this McClatchy article to learn about how Motorola pulled all kinds of tricks to try and establish dominance in the broadband market (once again, our glorious private sector at work – and I’m pretty sure Motorola has a lot of corporate “person” company here). So maybe our government would spend these funds more efficiently if it weren’t for the fact that the fund recipients are busy trying to gouge their customers and/or competitors.

    8. Building our energy supply

    Why is that supposed to be the job of the federal government when we give out all kinds of tax breaks to the oil biz, as noted here (though we should be doing the same thing for renewables, but of course we’re not, as noted here.)

    9. Inventing the future (NASA)

    Actually, I think we’ve done OK in NASA funding, all things considered (and fortunately, they still have the resources to do ground-breaking research such as this, which of course should be a “hair on fire” moment for anyone in a political capacity who cares about the future of this planet).

    10. Defeating totalitarianism

    See #1.

    Of course, what else can we expect from Schaus, who (as noted here) used developments in so-called “smart” gun technology to baselessly claim that it was a confiscation scheme on the part of former Obama AG Eric Holder?

  • I also wanted to comment on this story

    Republican Gov. Tom Corbett said Monday (10/6) he supports a bill designed to prevent offenders from causing their victims “mental anguish,” a proposal launched after a Vermont college chose as its commencement speaker a man convicted of killing a police officer.

    Corbett spoke at a Capitol event a day after Mumia Abu-Jamal gave a recorded address to about 20 graduates at Goddard College in Plainfield.

    “Nobody has the right to continually taunt the victims of their violent crimes in the public square,” Corbett said.

    He called the college’s choice of Abu-Jamal “unconscionable.”

    The bill that advanced out of a House committee on Monday would allow a victim to go to court for an injunction against “conduct which perpetuates the continuing effects of the crime on the victim.”

    OK, to begin with, I think allowing Abu-Jamal to give a recorded address to the Goddard graduates was a dumb idea. I don’t care if he’s a graduate of the school or not; someone should have stepped in and disallowed it. As far as I’m concerned, a line needs to be drawn somewhere, and I think doing so right at the feet of a convicted murderer of a Philadelphia police officer is a pretty darn good place (kind of makes me wonder what’s going on with that school anyway, since apparently they don’t give out grades…yeah, that will REALLY prepare graduates for the workforce).

    However, this legislation is equally stupid, if not more so. How exactly does the author of this bill propose to establish the cause of “mental anguish”? Survivor flashbacks to the occurrence of the crime? An inadvertent mention of the crime from a passer-by in the form of an offhand remark? Having to watch an hour of Brian Kilmeade on Fox TV?

    (OK, I’ll stop.)

    Also, what exactly constitutes “conduct which perpetuates the continuing effects of crime on the victim”? By that standard, a candlelight vigil could prompt painful remembrances and thus be subject to penalty under this bill.

    As I said, I’ll definitely grant the point that allowing Abu-Jamal yet another platform for his thoroughly undeserved celebrity is stupid. But concocting some bill that doesn’t pass the legal smell test falls under the heading of two wrongs trying to make a right.

  • Finally, as noted here, it turns out Mikey the Beloved in PA-08 has spent about $200 grand on “franking” for campaign ads telling us how wonderful he supposedly is (including online at Twitter and Google), which apparently is not illegal in any way; as the article tells us, there is a franking limit for Senate campaigns, but not U.S. House ones (and why exactly is that, I wonder?).

    However, even though he’s running online ads, he still doesn’t advertise his Town Hall meetings (has he even had any during this campaign?). And it also doesn’t take into consideration his recent refusal to accept an invitation to a candidate’s forum hosted by the Lin-Park Civic Association and the Bucks County NAACP, even though he was notified about the forum five different times in August and September (his Dem opponent Kevin Strouse had no problem saying Yes).

    With that in mind, I give you the following from the Strouse campaign…

    Bristol, PA – Congressman Fitzpatrick, who missed 35% of his House Financial Services Committee hearings, is misleading his constituents with counter-terrorism theater and grandstanding on issues of national security. Fitzpatrick continues to mislead his constituents despite the fact that the Congressman’s Isolate ISIS Act is a duplicative effort that does nothing to further target ISIS’s financing.

    Executive Order 13324, signed by President Bush in 2001, provides the necessary framework for the Treasury department to sanction terrorist funding. Perhaps if the Congressman showed up to his committee hearings he would understand the mechanisms that have been in place for over 13 years to target terrorist network financing and levy sanctions against complicit groups and individuals.

    Strouse commented, “It’s extremely disappointing that Congressman Fitzpatrick would politicize national security problems that he clearly doesn’t understand. I fought terrorism as an Army Ranger in Iraq and as a CIA officer, so it’s time to set the record straight for the 8th District: Treasury already has the necessary authority to target ISIS’s funding, and has been doing so for quite some time. The issue that we ought to be addressing is that training the Syrian rebels will take much longer than Congressman Fitzpatrick and his colleagues have indicated.”

    The Congressional authorization to train Syrian rebels expires in December. Strouse has previously pointed out how short-sighted this short term authorization is, and has emphasized on multiple occasions that adequately training an army takes longer than 90 days.

    As early as 2008, Treasury was targeting the predecessor to ISIS. In February 2008, pursuant to Executive Order 13324, treasury took action against al Qaida in Iraq (AQI), which is the predecessor to ISIS. Instead of grandstanding on issues that are already addressed under current law, Congressman Fitzpatrick and his colleagues should be addressing the soon to expire authorization to train moderate rebel troops.

    Time is short until the election, so if you are able to help the Kevin Strouse campaign in any capacity at all, please click here.


  • Friday Mashup (7/25/14)

    July 25, 2014
  • Lots to get to here…

    Things have been a bit quiet on the “gun front” lately (good news because it means fewer people than normal are dying as a result – hopefully it will stay that way), though this item recently appeared, including the following…

    Beretta U.S.A. announced Tuesday that company concerns over a strict gun-control law enacted in Maryland last year have made it necessary to move its weapons making out of the state to Tennessee.

    The well-known gun maker said it will move to a new production facility it is building in the Nashville suburb of Gallatin that is set to open in mid-2015.

    Beretta general manager Jeff Cooper said that a sweeping gun-control measure that was passed last year initially contained provisions that would have prohibited the Italian gun maker from being able to produce, store or even import into Maryland the products that the company sells around the world. While the legislation was changed to remove some of those provisions, Cooper said the possibility that such restrictions could be reinstated left the company worried about maintaining a firearm-making factory in Maryland.

    So Beretta decided to move their operations from Maryland to Tennessee supposedly because of those gol-darned liberals and their danged gun laws, even though the Maryland legislation was changed to try and mollify Beretta.

    However, I think we need to note something else (from a related story here)…

    Beretta said they will not begin the transition process of moving production to Gallatin until sometime in 2015. The company added it had no plans to relocate its office, administrative or executive support functions from the Maryland facility.

    Really? I wonder why not? I mean, if you’re gonna “talk the talk” about moving all the jobs, then why not actually, y’know, move all of the jobs.

    Could it possibly be because, as noted here, the state minimum wage for Maryland is $7.25 an hour, but for Tennessee…well, there is no state minimum wage?

    Maybe Tennessee deserves Beretta, and I don’t mean that as a compliment; here, the reviewer of Beretta’s Cx4 Storm, which apparently can substitute as a semiautomatic pistol, concluded that “it is basically a weapon designed to kill and maim people in a quick, efficient manner…In the hands of even an unskilled shooter, it can still accomplish that purpose quite effectively.”

    Terrific.

  • Next, someone named Abby Johnson (must…resist…Blazing Saddles…snark) at The Daily Tucker tells us the following here

    Johnson, who left the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas in 2010, released a budget statement for the 2010 fiscal year she said shows that the clinic was expected to perform at least 1,135 abortions that year.

    Johnson’s group, And Then There Were None, released a photograph a few weeks ago of a Colorado clinic receiving an award for having performed more abortions in the first half of the 2013 fiscal year than they had in the second half of the 2012 fiscal year.

    Even though, as noted here according to the law, no federal funds are allowed to be used for abortions (so basically, if there had been an audit, that Planned Parenthood office would have lost its federal funding).

    I find Johnson’s claims hard to believe, particularly when you consider the following (here)…

    (Johnson), a former Planned Parenthood employee turned antiabortion activist, gave a workshop at Heartbeat International’s 2012 conference titled “Competing With the Abortion Industry.” According to audio of the event, Johnson told participants, ”We want to look professional. We want to look businesslike. And yeah, we do kind of want to look medical.” She discouraged them from foregrounding their religious affiliation, so as to better trick women: “We want to appear neutral on the outside. The best call, the best client you ever get is one that thinks they’re walking into an abortion clinic. Those are the best clients that could ever walk in your door or call your center, the ones that think you provide abortions.”

    Before she engages in any more deception on matters related to women’s health care, I honestly think Johnson ought to get straight on the whole “not bearing false witness” thing in accordance with the faith she claims she’s trying to practice. Particularly since, despite her best efforts and those of her fellow wingnuts, Roe v. Wade still happens to be the law of the land.

  • Further, Rich Lowry blames Number 44 as follows (here)…

    According to the Los Angeles Times, the number of immigrants younger than 18 who were deported or turned away from ports of entry declined from 8,143 in 2008 to 1,669 last year. There were 95 minors deported from the entire interior of the country last year.

    Of course, far be it for Lowry to note the effects of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 which, as noted below, was passed and signed into law by Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History (here).

    In 2008, in the lame-duck session of a presidential year when the party’s president and nominee were both immigration reformers, Congress easily passed the (Act – Wilberforce was a British parliamentarian who led the slavery abolition movement). No one in the House or Senate opposed a law intended to rescue children from exploitative pimps—legislation that allowed young people to attain “special immigrant juvenile status.” The Obama administration is citing this as the reason why deportations have plunged, and asked Congress to fix it.

    Oh yeah, like that will happen with Boehner and company, who never imagined a “scandal” they didn’t like concerning this president.

    Oh, and I know I’m going out of order a bit, but Lowry inflicts the following also…

    The first rule in a crisis for any executive is put on his windbreaker and boots and get out on the ground. President George W. Bush didn’t do it soon enough after Hurricane Katrina and, politically, could never make up for it, no matter how many times he visited New Orleans subsequently. Obama’s bizarre resistance to visiting the border on his fundraising swing out West fueled talk of the influx as Obama’s “Katrina moment.”

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!

    To begin, I don’t know if it matters one bit whether or not President Obama goes to the border; as noted here, he described such a move as “cheap theater,” which I think is absolutely correct. Besides, as noted here, many of Obama’s most vocal critics on this haven’t been to the border either, including “Man Tan” Boehner, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), and Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wy) and the thoroughly odious Ron Johnson (R-WI). You can also lump “Calgary” Cruz into the mix, along with Reps “Smokey Joe” Barton and Jeb Hensarling, all of Texas, which is particularly ridiculous (more on Hensarling shortly).

    Also, I really think the wingnuts should give the “Obama/Katrina” thing a rest, particularly when you consider the following from here; I believe the only tragedies and/or foibles that our corporate media haven’t declared to be an “Obama/Katrina” moment would be the Chicago Fire, the Kennedy assassination (either one), the Challenger shuttle disaster, and the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (you can Google it, the event and/or the song – apparently, everything else is fair game).

  • Continuing (and speaking of Hensarling), I give you the following from here (where he and his pals try out a lot of new right-wing talking points about Dodd-Frank)…

    Thanks to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Qualified Mortgage rule, Dodd-Frank makes it harder for low and moderate-income Americans to buy a home. According to a Federal Reserve study, roughly one third of African-American and Hispanic borrowers would not be able to obtain a mortgage based solely on the CFPB’s debt-to-income requirements.

    In response, I give you the following (here)…

    Dodd-Frank tried to (put in place) new consumer protection rules requiring banks to verify a borrower’s ability to repay a loan before extending it. At Wednesday’s hearing, much of the GOP criticism focused on false allegations about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Qualified Mortgage regulation, or QM.

    “You don’t protect consumers by taking away or limiting products, like the CFPB does through the Qualified Mortgage rule,” Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) said.

    The QM rule doesn’t ban anything. It’s a basic test of whether a loan is designed to line a lender’s pockets by ripping off a borrower. And it gives banks special perks for meeting the CFPB’s high-quality loan standards, protecting them from predatory lending lawsuits. In practice, that means limiting the amount lenders charge in points and fees to 3 percent of the loan value, banning balloon loans with a big lump sum due at the end of the mortgage…

    Hensarling was particularly vocal about the Dodd-Frank law’s effect on minority borrowers, claiming a Federal Reserve study shows that “about one-third of blacks and Hispanics would not be able to obtain a mortgage,” based on the rule’s requirement that monthly borrower debts not exceed 43 percent of monthly income.

    That’s true, according to the Fed’s 2010 data. It’s also generally considered bad personal finance to have that much of your income tied up with debt payments.

    Also, this tells us more about the CFPB’s mortgage rules modifications. And as far as debt-to-income requirements, I give you the following from here

    Lenders will have to verify borrowers’ income, assets and debt before signing them up for home loans. Such common-sense practices anchored the mortgage market for decades but were cast aside in the lead-up to the meltdown as banks relaxed standards to churn out more lucrative loans. The result was millions of homeowners who were unable to manage their mortgages once the market tanked.

    And…

    In response, the CFPB has created a category of home loans that offer lenders broad legal protections against borrower lawsuits, provided they adhere to certain criteria. These “qualified mortgages” limit upfront fees and bar risky features such as no-interest periods that can leave homeowners stuck with unsustainable loans.

    Hensarling also propagandizes as follows…

    Dodd-Frank’s Volcker rule makes U.S. capital markets less competitive against other international financial centers. It’s more expensive for U.S. companies to raise working capital and harder for Americans saving for retirement or their children’s college educations.

    In response, this tells us more about the supposedly dreaded “Volcker rule”…

    A federal regulation that prohibits banks from conducting certain investment activities with their own accounts, and limits their ownership of and relationship with hedge funds and private equity funds, also called covered funds. The Volcker Rule’s purpose is to prevent banks from making certain types of speculative investments that contributed to the 2008 financial crisis.

    Here is more from Hensarling…

    Dodd-Frank created the Financial Stability Oversight Council and gave it the power to designate certain large businesses as “Systemically Important Financial Institutions” (SIFIs). Now insurance companies that pose no discernible systemic risk to the economy are being subjected to unnecessary regulation that dries up capital for infrastructure projects, and harms investors and policy-holders.

    In response (here)…

    AIG and GE Capital chose not to fight the (Financial Stability Oversight Council’s) efforts to bring them under tougher regulatory scrutiny (by declaring them SIFIs).

    “AIG did not contest this designation and welcomes it,” the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

    Russell Wilkerson, a spokesman for GE Capital, which is the financial services arm of General Electric, said the company had been prepared for the council’s decision.

    “We have strong capital and liquidity positions, and we are already supervised by the Fed,” he said.

    The oversight group does not name companies under consideration for this designation until it makes a final decision, but AIG and GE Capital had previously disclosed that the council had proposed declaring them systemically risky.

    Prudential Financial had also disclosed that the council had proposed designating it as systemically risky, but the company last week said it would contest the proposal by asking for a hearing before the regulatory group.

    I think we’ve figured out at this point that Hensarling and his pals are doing everything they can to try and scuttle financial reform, which is perfectly in lack of character for a guy who believes in fairy tales about how those alleged deadbeats with credit card balances are hurting the “bottom line” of the lending institutions – actually, as the poster notes here, the opposite is true.

    Hensarling, by the way, is chairman of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee. And do you know who else serves on that committee?


    Why, our own Mikey the Beloved, of course – with that in mind, I give you this from the Kevin Strouse campaign (running to unseat Mikey in PA-08)…

    Four Years After Authorization of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Congressman Fitzpatrick Continues to Advocate for Banks, the Ultra-Wealthy and Special Interests Instead of People

    Kevin Strouse exposes Congressman Fitzpatrick’s self-interested votes to protect the big banks and special interests that support his campaign, putting 8th district consumers at risk.

    Bristol, PA – Yesterday (7/21) marked the fourth anniversary of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act becoming law. The act, which was passed in response to the financial crisis caused by irresponsible banks and self-interested politicians, created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to enforce laws and ensure that the financial industry works for all Americans – not just big banks. Democratic Congressional candidate Kevin Strouse called out Congressman Fitzpatrick for his relentless attempts to weaken this law which was designed to regulate many of the big banks and payday lenders who donate large sums to Fitzpatrick’s re-election campaigns.

    In 2011 Congressman Fitzpatrick voted to eliminate the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. On yet another occasion, he voted in 2012 to expand loopholes and exemptions covering derivatives.

    Strouse commented, “It’s disappointing that my opponent has taken every opportunity he could to vote to weaken an agency whose sole mission is to protect consumers. Unfortunately, Congressman Fitzpatrick has proven himself to be another self-interested Washington insider who will tirelessly defend the big banks and special interests that he’s supposed to regulate as a member of the House Financial Services Committee, and then willingly turn his back on his middle class constituents.”

    Despite Representative Fitzpatrick’s self-interested votes, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has made a real difference in peoples’ lives. To date, more than 15 million consumers have received $4.6 Billion in relief and refunds due to actions taken by the CFPB.

    Strouse continued, “The people of Bucks and Montgomery counties are simply asking for a fair shot to experience economic opportunity that works for everyone in this country, and voters this fall will have a choice between electing a representative who will work to support middle-class families in the 8th District, or remaining left behind by Congressman Fitzpatrick and the dysfunctional Republican Congress.”

    BACKGROUND:

    Fitzpatrick voted to limit the effectiveness of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). [2011, HR 1315, Vote #261]

    • The legislation would limit the effectiveness of the CFPB, a bureau created by the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory bill, which “has the authority to regulate financial markets in ways meant to improve consumer protection”. The CFPB, which had a single director, would instead have a five-member board. This legislation would also change the two-thirds majority vote by the Financial Stability Oversight Council to override a CFPB decision to just a simple majority. [The Hill, 7/21/11; Washington Post, 7/22/11]
    • Philadelphia Inquirer: Fitzpatrick voted to “Muzzle” the CFPB… [Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/27/11].

    Fitzpatrick Voted to Expand Loopholes, Exemptions in Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Bill [HR 3336, Vote #180, 4/25/12]

    • In 2012, Fitzpatrick voted to expand loopholes and exemptions covering derivatives in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law. According to CQ, the bill “would exempt certain financial institutions regulated by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) from classification as swap dealers under Dodd-Frank. The law included a similar exemption for depository institutions and supporters say the change would allow farm credit institutions that are not designated as depository institutions to offer swaps to protect customer loans from sudden interest rate fluctuations.” [CQ, 4/25/12]

    15 million consumers will receive $4.6 billion in relief due to actions taken by the CFPB. Source here.

    ###

    Kevin Strouse is a former Army Ranger, CIA counterterrorism analyst, and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who lives in Middletown, Pa., with his wife, Amy, and two young children, Walter and Charlotte. He is currently Program Director of Teach2Serve, a non-profit that teaches social entrepreneurship to local high school students. He earned his BA from Columbia University and a Masters in Security Studies from Georgetown University, graduating with honors.

    To support Kevin, click here.

    Ryan Good Deed
    Also related to financial stuff, it looks like none other than Mr.-Puppy-Dog-Eyes-With-The-Shiv is back with some supposedly glorious plan to lift everyone out of poverty with not one dime of new spending or (Heaven forbid!) a revenue increase of any type whatsoever, as his mouthpiece Reihan Salam tells us here

    …Loved by the right and loathed by the left, Ryan has been the architect of the most consequential Republican domestic policy initiatives of the Obama era. In spirit if not in name, Ryan spent much of President Obama’s first term as the leader of the opposition, rallying Republicans against Obamacare and in favor of long-term spending reductions. His controversial calls for entitlement and tax reform as chairman of the House Budget Committee were singled out by the president for over-the-top denunciation. In the spring of 2012, well before Ryan was named the Republican vice-presidential nominee, the president went so far as to characterize the Wisconsin congressman’s budget proposal as “thinly-veiled Social Darwinism.”

    Yeah, well, that’s probably because it is “thinly veiled social Darwinism” (here).

    So what exactly is Ryan’s supposedly wonderful new plan? Why, to consolidate stuff like SNAP and Section 8 housing funds into a block grant for states, where there is NO POSSIBLE WAY that the funds will EVER be used inappropriately once federal oversight is removed. And of course, there will be NO PROBLEM with people who need housing funds but not food assistance losing out because the latter need will be over allocated by a state instead of the former one. Am I right (more here)?

    Somehow I have a feeling that, if Hensarling, Mikey and their buddies were serious about balancing the books, they would not have cut the IRS enforcement budget by 25 percent (here). They also would not have recently passed “a whopping $287 billion business tax cut measure with no effort to pay for or offset that amount” (here).

    And as former Reaganite Bruce Bartlett points out here

    As far as tax reform is concerned, the problem for Republicans is they don’t actually believe in the “reform” part of tax reform. That would be the part that eliminates unjustified tax cuts and loopholes to pay for statutory rate reductions. In their heart of hearts, Republicans only believe in tax cuts, especially for big corporations and the ultra-wealthy. They, like the right wing novelist Ayn Rand, believe that only the wealthy create wealth. Average workers are greedy parasites, especially when they have the temerity to join a union and, like Oliver Twist, ask for “more.” The Republican establishment pulled out all the stops recently to kill the unionization of an auto plant in Tennessee lest workers get too uppity.

    Hmm, Tennessee huh? The same state where Beretta decided to move the majority of its workforce, as noted earlier. I guess it’s just a coincidence that Tennessee is also, apparently, virulently anti-union, huh?

    I know better minds than mine have said this before, as I have also, but it needs to be repeated again. The Party of Reagan wants to take from the “have less” crowd and give to the “have more” crowd any way possible, and they don’t give a damn about balancing the budget or growing the economy. When it comes to their supposed fiscal stewardship, here endeth the lesson.

  • Finally, I don’t have anything particularly brilliant to say about this item, but I’m compelled to speak up anyway…

    Many Pennsylvania drivers have long-awaited the increasing of the maximum speed limit. That day is coming next week.

    The speed limit will be raised to 70 mph on a 100-mile stretch of toll road in the south-central part of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission announced Friday.

    The 70 mph zone will be on the Turnpike mainline (Interstate 76) between the Blue Mountain Interchange (Exit 201) and the Morgantown Interchange (Exit 298) starting Wednesday.

    Turnpike officials are planning a news conference for next week to detail future speed-limit changes across the Turnpike’s 550-mile system.

    “Our studies have shown that the design of our system in this area can safely accommodate the higher speed limit,” Pa. Turnpike CEO Mark Compton said in a news release.

    “But motorists must remember that it is their responsibly to drive safely and sensibly according to the traffic and weather conditions — especially when the pavement is slick from precipitation or when visibility is limited.”

    State police say they’re planning strict enforcement of the 70 mph limit.

    I drive the PA Turnpike a lot, but I must confess that this isn’t really the best news as far as I’m concerned. Unless this is the proverbial Trojan Horse in the sense that the state police are dressing this up as a very attractive carrot, when in reality they plan to turn it into a cash-raising stick via higher fines for speeding offenses, which is another story.

    I drive the stretch from Downingtown to Trevose/Bensalem, Pa. a lot (don’t ask me the exit numbers; I committed the old ones to memory and can’t remember the news ones), and though there has been a bit of a break with traffic volume for the summer vacations, I envision this stretch of road turning into even more of a demolition derby when most of the drivers come back if a speed limit of 70 is ever put into place.

    Yes, I’m frequently around 70 myself, and mainly I’m just keeping up with traffic flow. But in time, the “unofficial” speed will tick upward, probably closer to 80. And again, on that stretch of the turnpike, that is too damn fast of a speed to maintain, particularly when you consider this (first bullet). I am also old enough to recall when discussions about raising the speed limit also discussed whether or not that led to energy savings; no sign of that here that I can tell.

    My motivation behind saying this is simple; I’m trying to keep people alive, including myself. And if that means I’m forced to drive, say, 5 to 10 miles slower on my route than I would if I were approaching, say, Harrisburg, then that’s a small price to pay as far as I’m concerned.

    Oh, and something else – as long as I’m discussing the PA Turnpike, can we please speed it up a bit with building the I-95 connector near Bristol? Also, replacing the rest stop where the Street Road EZ Pass ramp is now located would be a good idea too. Can you please make it so?

    Hugs…


  • Thursday Mashup (7/17/14)

    July 17, 2014
  • As the family and I were about to embark on our vacation (more later on that), I found out that Richard Mellon Scaife had died.

    For the uninitiated (maybe one or two of you out there), I should point out that Scaife founded The Arkansas Project. As noted from here

    The Arkansas Project was created and funded with the sole objective of digging up, and if necessary fabricating, any information that could be used to defame the Clintons and those around them. Over the course of several years, Scaife allocated approximately 2.4 million dollars to the [American] Spectator for sole use in its “investigative” efforts to defame and humiliate Clinton… efforts which resulted in the “revelation” (“fabrication” is perhaps more accurate in most cases) of tabloidesque stories such as the “Troopergate” and Whitewater scandals, Paula Jones’ allegations of sexual harassment, and the legitimization and continuation of conspiracy theories about the death of Deputy White House Counsel and close Clinton friend Vince Foster, among others…

    The “investigative” efforts of those involved in the Arkansas Project eventually led, albeit indirectly, to Clinton’s impeachment in the Monica Lewinsky scandal…

    Over the next thirty years, Scaife alone would contribute $200 million to conservative causes (“The Right’s Big Moneyman”). This growth and expansion of conservative journalism and conservative think tanks, which together formed a cohesive social and political movement, continued throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, bolstered by the Presidency of Ronald Reagan.

    Indeed – as noted from here

    Scaife’s money has established or supported “activist think tanks that have created and marketed conservative ideas from welfare reform to enhanced missile defense; public interest law firms that have won important court cases on affirmative action, property rights and how to conduct the national census; organizations and publications that have nurtured conservatism on American campuses; academic institutions that have employed and promoted the work of conservative intellectuals; watchdog groups that have critiqued and harassed media organizations, and many more.”

    By the way, as the first Daily Kos post points out (the one where Scaife announces his illness and, yet again, creates an opportunity to smear his targets – “oh, woe is me – oppressed by liberals again even though I’m gravely ill”), Scaife’s political donations actually extended back to the Nixon Administration, and Newt Gingrich credited Scaife’s involvement in GOPAC as the main reason for Gingrich’s political ascendancy.

    Ritchie-and-Richard-Mellon-Scaife
    More on Scaife’s family history (basically, the story of how he accumulated his financial largesse) is here. Also, this tells us some of the seamy details of Scaife’s divorce; normally I would leave stuff like that alone, but as long as he punished the Clintons over personal details that, as far as I’m concerned, we never needed to know, I don’t know why Scaife shouldn’t receive the same treatment.

    Before there was Fix Noise and the plethora of conservative web sites out there (to say nothing of right-wing talk radio), there was Richard Mellon Scaife, along with the Birchers, the Klan, John Podhoretz and Commentary Magazine, and of course William F. Buckley and the National Review, along with Paul Weyrich (and I suppose I’m forgetting other infamous right-wing notables). Scaife did his very best to maintain the conservative outrage machine that, once marginalized, now permeates what passes for our political dialogue, enforcing its narratives over just about every policy discussion that takes place affecting this country; the entirely predictable outcome is that we never seem to be able to resolve a critical problem of any type whatsoever (this book documents Scaife’s attacks on the Clintons better than I ever could).

    I don’t know the disposition of Scaife’s remains. However, if he received a burial, then I think the resulting toxicity of the location would necessitate that it be designated as a Superfund cleanup site.

  • Next, I give you the latest from the utterly cretinous Mark Meadows, U.S. House Repug from North Carolina, here

    It was only a matter of time before the new unity government between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, a designated terrorist organization, proved to be a deadly agreement for both Palestinians and Israelis.

    I saw the writing on the wall as soon as the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) chose to embrace the terrorist group, effectively ending hopes of a peace agreement between the PLO and Israel.

    Really? Then I wonder why Meadows didn’t have anything to say (nothing I could track down anyway) when President Obama’s wretched predecessor did the same thing here?

    Oh, you dumb libtard, I hear some of you cry…yeah, GWB supported the unity government, but he withheld funding for the PLO.

    OK, all well and good. But riddle me this – name for me one president who has had to deal with this type of nonsense from a U.S. Congress related to funding in that area of the world (here)…

    The House Appropriations Committee (recently) approved a 2015 foreign operations bill that bars aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) from some $440 million in proposed funding.

    The Senate’s version of its 2015 foreign operations bill, which includes similar language barring funding to the PA, was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 19.

    Unlike previous years, when the House banned funding for a government over which Hamas “exercises undue influence,” this year’s language targets any type of power-sharing government “that results from an agreement with Hamas.”

    It also imposes strict conditions under which Obama can waive the funding ban. According to language approved last week, Obama must not only certify that the new government recognizes Israel, renounces violence and commits to honor previous agreements, but that it acknowledges Israel as “a Jewish state.”

    Also…

    A much more restrictive bill, introduced in April by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., failed to attract sufficient support by Senate colleagues.

    Labeled the “Stand With Israel Act,” the bill aimed to rescind the president’s right to waive funding for any type of Palestinian unity government.

    Congressional action on the funding halt comes at a time of unprecedented coordination between the PA’s Fatah-commanded security force (PSF) and thousands of Israeli ground troops maneuvering through the West Bank in search of three victims of an alleged Hamas kidnapping.

    Israeli security officials have urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is fervently opposed to the Hamas-led government, to refrain from diplomatic or other action that could trigger collapse of ongoing coordination with the PSF.

    Similarly, supporters of Israel who champion a two-state peace deal between Israel and the PA warn that a precipitous halt in US funding will undermine PA President Mahmoud Abbas and ultimately harm Israeli security interests.

    “Funding for the PA’s security services is in Israel’s national security interests,” said Ori Nir, spokesman for the Washington-based Americans for Peace Now public policy organization.

    In a (sic) interview Wednesday, Nir warned that pulling the plug on US aid would harm Israel as much as the PA.

    “Israeli military commanders in the West Bank will tell you just how valuable their security coordination with the PA is. Many deaths of innocent Israelis have been avoided due to this coordination, as has the eruption of mass Palestinian violence,” said Nir, an Arabic-speaking former Israeli journalist who specialized in Palestinian affairs.

    He noted that Abbas has vehemently condemned the June 12 abduction and vowed to uphold security coordination with Israel, which he described as a “sacred” top priority for the new consensus government.

    And as I’m sure many of us know by now, the three Israelis abducted were found dead; it should not be necessary to point out what an indefensible criminal act that is.

    But returning to Washington, D.C. for a minute – according to that supposedly brilliant Republican Party intellectual Rand Paul (try not to laugh too hard), Obama is supposed to agree to an absurdist scheme like this that would limit his own presidential power and could possibly exacerbate an already bad situation, in an area of the world that knows almost nothing but bad situations anymore.

    I defy you to give me an example of a president who has ever had to deal with these types of restrictions from a U.S. Congress on a foreign policy issue.

    If the Repugs on Capitol Hill ever decide to get their act together in this conflict, then I have no problem with them deciding to withhold funding to the new “unity” government. But when that doesn’t turn out to be the quick fix that the wingnuts crave (on this or any issue), then don’t run kicking and screaming to sympathetic media about how that alleged Kenyan Muslim Socialist on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue hates anything having to do with the state of Israel (which, let’s not forget, awarded Obama this – and to read about more lowlights with Meadows, click here).

  • Further, I give you the following from The Daily Tucker (here)…

    The president of a Washington state company cited as an example of the Export-Import Bank’s usefulness came out against its re-authorization Tuesday.

    Edmund Schweitzer III, founder and president of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, expressed this opinion in a letter to the editor of the Spokesman-Review.

    “Some Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories customers have used the Ex-Im Bank for financing, at their choosing. SEL does not depend on it, nor encourage it,” he writes. “If the Ex-Im Bank were to disappear, I believe buyers and sellers would find attractive commercial options unencumbered by politics and special interests.”

    I don’t know anything about how businesses operate in Washington State, but when it comes to reauthorizing the export-import bank, Kevin Strouse, Dem candidate for the PA-08 U.S. House seat currently held by Mikey the Beloved, had this to say…

    Bristol, PA — (On 7/10/14) (Strouse), former Army Ranger and Democratic candidate for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 8th District, called on Congressman Fitzpatrick to sign on to a bipartisan letter urging Speaker of the House John Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to bring export-import bank reauthorization to the floor for a vote.

    This letter, supported by the Chamber of Commerce, urges House Leadership to reauthorize the federally backed export-import bank, which was founded in 1934 to help American businesses finance foreign sales. The bank has a long history of bipartisan support as a common sense tool for supporting American business and creating jobs. If Congress fails to act by September 30th, the bank’s charter will expire.

    Kevin Strouse remarked that reauthorizing the bank is a common sense solution for economic growth in the 8th District. “Congressman Fitzpatrick and his Tea Party allies have created such a culture of dysfunction in Washington that they won’t even allow their Republican Congress to pass a historically bipartisan, pro-business measure. We need new leaders in Washington who can put an end to this senseless dysfunction and work towards common sense solutions to help spur economic opportunity and create jobs for the middle class,” said Strouse.

    Strouse continued, “There are 23 businesses in the 8th District directly impacted by this issue–failure to immediately act to reauthorize the export-import bank would be only the latest example of Congressman Fitzpatrick and this Republican Congress allowing their self-interested dysfunction to hurt Pennsylvania’s economy and jobs…”

    Sounds like common sense to me, as opposed to the idiocy routinely inflicted by Mikey and his pals in Congress (to help Kevin, click here).

  • Continuing (and staying with PA politics on the state level this time), I came across this item from the Philadelphia Inquirer…

    High-powered Democrats have asked political novice Steve Cickay to withdraw from what is viewed as a pivotal Bucks County state Senate race, according to sources familiar with the discussions, and give way to Shaughnessy Naughton – who lost in the May primary in her bid for a congressional seat.

    Leading party operatives, including former Gov. Ed Rendell and State Sen. Vincent Hughes (D., Philadelphia), believe Naughton’s name recognition and her ability to appeal to female voters make her a stronger candidate to take on two-term incumbent Chuck McIlhinney, the sources said.

    Naughton, 35, also could use whatever leftover campaign funds she stockpiled during her congressional run for a state Senate bid, two election-law experts said, potentially giving her more resources to challenge McIlhinney than Cickay, who has struggled with fund-raising.

    The race could be crucial for state Democrats, who are eager to wrangle control of the Senate from Republicans but have a limited number of winnable seats statewide, political experts say.

    So far, Cickay, 59, has shown little desire to leave the race, saying he’s gotten a positive response while campaigning.

    “I start something, I finish it,” he said in an interview. “I feel an obligation to these people that voted for me. . . . I feel I owe it to them to finish.”

    (Before I comment on the substance of this story, I’d like to point out something to the supposed “webmaster” at philly.com. I saw this story in the hardcopy edition of the paper, and I tried multiple search combinations using keywords from this article, both at Google’s main page and also at the philly.com site, and the only way I managed to come across the link to the story was from another post by a local aggregator. Basically, I don’t know how philly.com’s search algorithms are constructed, but in my admittedly imperfect opinion, I would say that they need work.)

    OK, now to the story…I didn’t include the excerpt above pointing out that Shaughnessy Naughton reported about $158,000 in cash on hand as of April 30th from her recent PA-08 primary contest won by Kevin Strouse. I also didn’t note that Cickay had only $1,717 in cash on hand as of June 9, according to campaign records, compared with more than $150,000 for McIlhinney.

    So yeah, it’s entirely possible that, if Cickay stays in the race and keeps Naughton out, he could get completely wiped out by McIlhinney in the general election (and Ed Rendell supported Naughton in the PA-08 Dem primary a little while ago, just for the record).

    But while I begrudge nothing to Naughton, who has the right to seek any elective office she chooses, I want to say something in defense of Steve Cickay.

    I realize the Inquirer isn’t in the business of giving a plug to another newspaper, one that is a rival in a portion of its coverage area, so I don’t expect them to note how prominent a voice Cickay is on the Op-Ed page of the Bucks County Courier Times. In the midst of the interminable flotsam of wingnuttery that frequents that section, Cickay is a tireless voice on behalf of the environment, the middle class, and the economy overall, as well as women, LGBT individuals, the poor, the sick, and the elderly; Steve’s commentary is a welcome reprieve from the avalanche of duuuh! that all too often fills up editorial column space in that paper. And you know his words carry an impact based on the parade of mischaracterizations and insults from the great unwashed in response to his thoughtful commentary.

    As much as I don’t like the Repugs, sometimes I honestly think they’ve learned the lesson that all politics are ultimately local, as opposed to the Democrats on occasions such as this one. And I’m sure Naughton could put up a real scrap against McIlhinney, but Steve Cickay has been doing that all along, and I think it’s wrong to just tell him to go away because of paltry funding numbers.

    If you’re so inclined to help Steve as much as your means allows (an uphill fight to be sure), please click here.

  • Finally, I just want to take a minute and report that your humble narrator and the family spent last week at Martha’s Vineyard (we were sent there to scout locations for the Obamas – joke). The weather was perfect, and it was a welcome respite that we all needed. We were able to frequent the Net Result for lobsters at Vineyard Haven, the Art Cliff Diner (same location) as well as Nancy’s and Coup de Ville in Oak Bluffs; we also took jaunts to Menemsha, Edgartown, and Chillmark. We were saddened a bit to hear about the beach erosion at Squibnocket and the encroachment upon the shoreline at Aquinnah, which has put the light house in jeopardy (if you can help with the effort to save it, click here…I should note that Aquinnah is the Wampanoag Indian geographic reference for Gay Head – the Wampanoags settled there long ago; you can come up with your own scatological references if you wish).

    And to answer your question, no, I’m definitely not rich. It just made sense for us to spend the money we would probably have spent on a Jersey shore rental on a location we already know, and one that is surrounded by water and everything else we were looking for in the way of a summer break (also, speaking of the Vineyard, we recently observed the 15th anniversary of the tragic plane crash in that area that took the life of John Kennedy, Jr., his wife and her sister).

    The reason why I’m telling you this is because, in addition to the connector bridge from 95 to 195 East outside of Providence, RI (when we last made the trip in ’08, that area was nothing but construction full of closed lanes and cattle chutes – now, the transition from 95 onto the bridge and 195 is effortless), there was something else we noticed during our travels that was new.

    wind_turbine
    And that was these things that dotted the landscape across Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, including the Vineyard. And they actually aren’t eyesores.

    As noted here, Connecticut has committed to 23 percent of its total energy portfolio from renewable sources (including wind) by 2020. Also, this tells us that Rhode Island and Massachusetts are “on the leading edge of offshore wind energy development.”

    I’ll admit that I’m a bit torn on this issue, because I don’t support the so-called Cape Wind project to install 133 wind turbines in the middle of Nantucket Sound (more here). Yes, I get it that that’s the highest concentration of wind in the area, but I honestly think more work needs to be done to estimate what would be a cataclysmic impact to the Sound’s ecosystem.

    I wondered, though, what would possibly be a driving force behind the embrace of wind power in those three states (although, technically, Massachusetts is a commonwealth, similar to PA in that regard). And it occurred to me that all three are run by Democratic governors: Dannel Malloy in Connecticut, Lincoln Chaffee in Rhode Island, and Deval Patrick in Massachusetts.

    So just remember, people – if you want renewable energy, vote for Democrats, gubernatorial candidates in particular (including this guy).

    One final comment about the trip; this isn’t meant as a knock on any public radio station in our area, but absolutely none of them compare with WMVY, which has a terrific song mix (I could count on one hand the songs I head multiple times during the week) and engaging personalities; hell, I could even tolerate the commercials. It was truly a pleasure to listen to the station during the week, just as it was six years ago, particularly since they were off the air for a time but managed to return unbroken, as it were, as noted here. Well done!


  • Friday Mashup (6/13/14)

    June 13, 2014
  • This story tells us the following (about the recent idiocy in North Carolina Virginia where Phillip Puckett, a thoroughly compromised Dem in the state senate, agreed to resign for a plumb patronage job that he since has chosen not to accept, and let the Repugs take over that body, denying Medicaid expansion in that state)…

    Puckett’s resignation leads the way for him to get a job as deputy director of the state tobacco commission and for his daughter to be confirmed for a state judgeship. Depending on how you look at it, it’s politics at its worst — or best.

    “Republicans I’ve talked to are chortling,” Larry Sabato, founder and director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told Business Insider. “They think it’s one of the cleverest things they’ve done.”

    “And yet,” he added, “one of them asked me, ‘Do you think Democrats would not have done the same thing if they had the opportunity?’ And of course they would have. It’s yet another reason people hate politicians.”

    Perhaps, but is there a recent example of such an occurrence? You know, engaging in political nonsense that could prevent nearly 400,00 people in the state of North Carolina from receiving health care (here)? And let’s see how many Repugs are “chortling” in light of this.

    And Sabato follows up with the following…

    “This is really about Obamacare,” Sabato said of the dispute. “Forget about Medicaid.”

    I realize that it’s Sabato’s job to comment on the “horse race” political stuff and not necessarily the wonky material about, you know, actual policy and legislation that makes a difference in people’s lives, but if he doesn’t know what he’s talking about on this issue (and he obviously doesn’t), then he should shut up.

    You see, the people affected by the treachery orchestrated by Puckett and the North Carolina Repugs are (again) primarily the poor in his state who are due to receive the benefits of “Obamacare” through Medicaid expansion. Arguing that the two are separate in this case is disingenuous at best and outright lying at worst.

    This is par for the ridiculous course when it comes to Sabato, though; as noted here, he once said that the Swift Boat liars who impugned John Kerry ten years ago (remember that one?) were telling the truth; he also said that it would be “a national disgrace” to continue “the Clinton/Bush dynasty” (another idiotic construct as far as I’m concerned; things were a hell of a lot better for me and everyone I know under Bill than under either of the Bushes); and he also said (in the post I linked to previously) that the Democrats are the “mommy” party while the Repugs are the “daddy” party.

  • Next, I give you some truly ripe stuff from Larry Kudlow (here)…

    The Democrats want a minimum-wage hike. That may sound great on the surface, but it’s actually a big job loser for the lowest-skilled and poorest among us. President Obama and his EPA have launched a war on coal, which will cost hundreds of thousands of jobs if implemented. And then there’s Obamacare, which the CBO estimates will cost at least 2.5 million jobs.

    I don’t know how Kudlow can make that claim about the minimum wage with any degree of seriousness whatsoever (much more on that is available from here).

    And as far as coal goes, I also don’t know how Kudlow can seriously make the claim that Obama has “launched a war on coal,” considering that his administration encourages coal burning by aggressively issuing permits to mine coal on federal land, especially the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, as noted here.

    But wait, there’s more…

    With coal demand at home expected to fall by 20 per cent due to new regulations, and competitive pressure from low-priced natural gas, coal companies are now pushing to increase exports to Asia. … Three new coal-export ports are being proposed for the Pacific coast: two in Washington state and one in Oregon. They could eventually ship up to 100 million tons of coal per year—an amountequivalent to the total volume of coal the U.S. will export this year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA). …

    Environmentalists warn that emissions from that volume of coal would dwarf the savings from Obama’s new power plant rule.

    Since 2009, the Obama administration has sold leases for more than two billion tons of coal in the Powder River Basin for rates as low as $1 per ton, drawing the wrath of critics, including some in Congress, who say too much coal is being leased too cheaply. (Coal from the Powder River Basin is worth about $13 per ton.)

    As it reviews its long-term plans for the leases, which could eventually put another 10 billion tons of coal up for auction, the administration has so far resisted calls to include carbon emissions abroad in its decision-making.

    In addition, it looks like Kudlow is trying to propagandize once more about how the Affordable Care Law is a supposed job killer, when in reality (here)…

    The reduction in work hours that equates to 2.5 million jobs “stems almost entirely” from Americans deciding to work less or not at all in order to retain their eligibility for the Affordable Care Act’s expanded Medicaid coverage or government health insurance subsidies, the CBO analysis concludes.

    More on that is here; basically, we’re talking about a reduction in work hours that equates to 2.5 million jobs. Or, to give you an example close to home, maybe Mrs. Doomsy could continue to work on-call for about 20 hours or so a week if she qualified for “Obamacare” instead of having to work a minimum of 32 hours a week for her employer to get health insurance by that way instead (that’s partly a hypothetical and partly reality too, for the record).

    (Oh, and by the way, as you go to the polls later this year, please remember which political party was responsible for a near-catastrophic government shut down last year, and also remember who was one of the shut down’s biggest cheerleaders.)

  • Further, James Jay Carafano waxes hysterical as follows (here)…

    Iraq is a shambles. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Al Qaeda off-shoot that now controls nearly a third of the nation, continues to run amok.

    It’s way past time for the White House to get its head in the game. The disaster unfolding in Iraq and Syria could very quickly spiral into a much, much bigger problem. And some problems are so big that even our president can’t spin his way out.

    At the top of the list of what the administration should be worrying about—and preparing to deal with—is the potential for an endless three-way civil war in Iraq. With Sunni, Shia and Kurds fighting one another, it would look something like the civil war in Syria—on steroids.

    Of course, back during the supposedly glorious days of Iraq War II, no one could have predicted that the quagmire in Mesopotamia would turn out to be favorable to Iran. Right?

    In response, I give you James Jay Carafano in 2010 (here)…

    Here is what we know for sure. 1) Given the state of Iraq in 2006, the country is in a much better place today that any reasonable observer then dared hope. 2) Iraq is better off than it was in the age of Saddam. Now the country has a future, and it rests in the hands of its people. Bonus: The world is rid one of its most dangerous and bloodthirsty thugs. Yes, it was a heavy price. Freedom rarely comes cheap. 3) The surge worked. The surge never promised a land of “milk and honey.” It just promised to break the cycle of continuous, unrelenting violence, to give the new Iraqi political process a chance, and to allow the Iraqis time to build the capacity for their own security. It did that. 4) Things didn’t turn out the way Bush planned. But the vision — a free Iraq without Saddam — was achieved. Remember, things didn’t turn out the way FDR planned either. He said all the troops would be out of Europe in two years.

    By the way, Carafano wrote the above column on August 19th, the day that Obama announced that all combat operations would end by August 31st, with the full withdrawal scheduled for December 2011 (here). And after that, the attacks started to ramp up again.

    Here is my point – if Carafano said that “this is the way history works” in 2010, acting like he was OK with what Obama was doing, then wasn’t Carafano just as wrong then as he thinks Obama is now (and personally, I think Obama was correct, as opposed to Carafano)?

  • Continuing, I came across this real whopper from Dr. Ben Carson (here – page 2)…

    Over the past year, I have learned a great deal about the press in America. It is not uniformly unfair with nefarious agendas, but a significant portion is. One of the best ways to determine which news organizations are objective and which have an agenda is to keep a scorecard that lists both electronic and print media. When evaluating a story, check off whether it is concentrating on factual reporting or demonization. If there is controversy, determine whether both points of view are considered. If major stories of a political nature are ignored or barely mentioned, that should raise suspicions about objectivity.

    You know what? I think Carson is actually onto something here. So, following up on his idea of a “score card,” I came up with the following…

    Story Demonization Factual Reporting
    Here Carson compares gay men and women to bestiality supporters. Bestiality is abhorrent to the gay community and just about every other life form that I know of (duuuh!).
    Here The VA scandal is “A gift from God” according to Carson. The VA scandal is a national bipartisan tragedy, owing primarily to the huge burden of treating our military personnel fighting two wars begun under the prior administration (not a criticism of our military in any way, of course – not their problem that Bushco was a gang of thugs who were asleep on 9/11).
    Here Carson compared the Affordable Care Law to “slavery.” Over 8 million (and counting) citizens of this country now have access to health care, many of whom had no access before.
    Here Carson once said that Russian President Vladimir Putin was right to call America “godless.” Why should we take seriously supposed lessons in morality from a thug who annexed Crimea away from Ukraine (you can go in many other directions here, I’ll admit).
    Here Carson invokes Lenin (no, not the Beatle) in attacking the Affordable Care Law. Sigh – is this really necessary anymore?

    Of course, if you want to do any research about Carson on your own, dear reader (trying to determine “factual reporting” vs. “demonization” without a visual aid, even the one as primitive as I provided), you can always just click here.

  • Update 6/14/14: Turning to Philadelphia-area stuff, it looks like a SEPTA transit strike is underway. I’m not totally familiar with all of the issues, though it apparently involves pension contributions and cost-of-living increases for transit workers (have to read more about it, as they say). It also looks like our illustrious governor, Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett, is going to ask Obama to appoint an executive-level commission, or something, to look into the matter, meaning that the striking workers will have to return to their jobs for a minimum of 240 days.

    I’m noting this particularly because of the following (here)…

    Bucks County Commissioner Charles H. Martin, who serves on SEPTA’s board of directors, said he was not aware of any plans by Bucks officials to handle potential traffic headaches.

    “Frankly, I don’t know what we could do,” he said.

    He said most people employed by the county and working in the county seat of Doylestown already drive to work, and would be unaffected by a Regional Rail strike.

    I know this may be hard for Mr. “I Have A Semi-Open Mind” to comprehend, but not all of the residents of Bucks County work in Doylestown (facepalm).

    Here’s a thought – why not try to encourage businesses to arrange staggered shifts for their employees or set up/encourage telecommuting or flex time options? Do anything you can to try and alleviate further traffic problems that may result from the strike!

    God, what a maroon (Update 6/16/14 – Hopefully, though, the strike won’t be an issue based in part on this)…

  • Finally (and returning to Fix Noise), I give you the following here

    This week, the president is speaking and acting on the issue of student loans for higher education. He appears to truly believe that a college education is important and is taking executive action to help students pay for their education. This seems like a straightforward feel-good issue…except there is a painful irony hiding behind the president’s words and actions.

    A closer look at the president’s Department of Education, sadly, reveals an elitist streak when it comes to higher education. At the same time that the president is speaking grandly about helping students pay for college, his education department is moving forward on a regulation that would severely limit the opportunity for college for a certain type of student — those attending non-traditional, private-sector colleges.

    There’s a hell of a lot of “red meat” and “dog whistle” language in what I suppose is a column that’s primarily an editorial as opposed to actual news (Number 44 is “elitist” and “classist,” etc., whatever the hell that means).

    I suppose this Jean Card person from Fox is responding to this news story (including the following)…

    The Obama administration is proposing to tighten oversight of for-profit colleges through new rules that seek to limit how much debt students can amass in career-training programs.

    The proposal, announced Friday, is the administration’s second try at regulations setting standards for what colleges must do to ensure that graduates of career programs get “gainful employment.”

    The first gainful employment initiative, debated from 2009 to 2011, spawned a huge campaign by for-profit colleges to block new regulation. The colleges, supported by many congressional Republicans and some Democrats, said then that they had been unfairly targeted and that the initiative would hurt low-income students.

    Obama administration officials said they were trying to protect those students from low-quality programs that would saddle them with too much debt.

    The Education Department issued a rule in 2011 that set standards for loan-repayment rates and the ratio of graduates’ debt to income. Programs that failed the tests could be disqualified from participation in the federal student aid, which would essentially shut them down. But in 2012, a federal judge blocked major provisions of that rule, forcing the department to start over.

    The new proposal jettisons the repayment-rate metric. Instead, it would require that the estimated loan payments of typical graduates not exceed 20 percent of discretionary income or 8 percent of total annual income.

    If someone has a principled disagreement with what Obama is trying to do here, then I honestly get that. I do support the president on this, I wish to emphasize, because I don’t see anyone else out there lifting a finger to try in rein in student debt.

    More information on this is available from here, including the following…

    A year ago, President Obama set a national goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. But because of the high costs of college, about two-thirds of graduates take out loans with an average student debt of over $23,000. This debt is particularly burdensome for graduates who choose to enter lower-paying public service careers, suffer setbacks such as unemployment or serious illness, or fail to complete their degree.

    To ensure that Americans can afford their student loan payments, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act gives student borrowers new choices in how they repay their loans. The initiative was developed by the Middle Class Task Force chaired by Vice President Biden, and it will expand the income-based repayment plan for federal student loans that was put in place last summer. More than 1.2 million borrowers are projected to qualify and take part in the expanded IBR program.

    Under this new law, students enrolling in 2014 or later can choose to:

    Limit Payments to 10 Percent of Income: Borrowers choosing the income-based repayment plan will pay no more than 10 percent of their income above a basic living allowance, reduced from 15 percent under current law. The basic living allowance varies with family size and is set at 150 percent of the poverty line, currently equaling about $16,500 for a single individual and $33,000 for a family of four.

    ◦More than 1 million borrowers would be eligible to reduce their monthly payments.

    ◦The payment will be reduced by more than $110 per month for a single borrower who earns $30,000 a year and owes $20,000 in college loans, based on 2009 figures.

    Forgive Any Remaining Debt after 20 Years, or after 10 Years for Those in Public Service: Borrowers who take responsibility for their loans and make their monthly payments will see their remaining balance forgiven after 20 years of payments, reduced from 25 years in current law.

    ◦Public service workers – such as teachers, nurses, and those in military service – will see any remaining debt forgiven after 10 years.

    Fully Funded by Student Loan Reforms: These new initiatives are funded by ending the current subsidies given to financial institutions that make guaranteed federal student loans. Starting July 1, all new loans will be direct loans delivered and collected by private companies under performance-based contracts with the Department of Education. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, ending these wasteful subsidies will free up nearly $68 billion for college affordability and deficit reduction over the next 11 years.

    And by the way, let’s not forget that the ridiculous practice of paying subsidies to financial institutions for basically nothing as part of the student loan process was ended by congressional Democrats in March 2010, with nary a single Republican voting in support (here).

    Oh, and speaking of the “respectful opposition,” this tells us that Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao did what he does best, and that was to launch yet another filibuster, this time of the student loan legislation sponsored by Dem Senator Elizabeth Warren (“come back louder” indeed).

    And things are no better in the House, of course; I give you the following…

    Congressman Fitzpatrick votes to protect the ultra-wealthy and votes against making college more affordable for America’s students and families

    Today, Congressman Fitzpatrick voted with Republicans to block H.R. 4582 “Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act,” the House version of Senator Warren’s companion bill that would allow students to refinance their loans at much lower rates than they are currently paying today.

    Congressman Fitzpatrick’s Republican budget charges students $40 billion more in loan interest, in order to pay for more tax breaks for those who need help the least, like special interests and the wealthiest Americans. Today’s vote was the latest in a record that clearly places the interests of banks above those of students.

    “Once again, Congressman Fitzpatrick gave us a clear view of his priorities when he voted with the Republicans against a bill that would lower the cost of education for students. Congressman Fitzpatrick has no problem standing up for tax breaks for the bankers and special interests he is supposed to regulate as a member of the House Financial Services Committee–but when it comes to helping Bucks County students and their families pay for college, Fitzpatrick turns his back on them” Strouse said.

    Strouse added, “Congressman Fitzpatrick continues to vote to protect the interests of wealthy bankers, while ignoring the needs of the middle-class. If America is going to succeed in a 21st century economy, we need to have the best-educated, best-trained workforce possible, and Congressman Fitzpatrick voting against making college more affordable for students in Pennsylvania’s 8th District is exactly the kind of representation we do not need in Washington.”

    ###

    Kevin Strouse is a former Army Ranger, CIA counterterrorism analyst, and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who lives in Middletown, Pa., with his wife, Amy, and two young children, Walter and Charlotte. He is currently Program Director of Teach2Serve, a non-profit that teaches social entrepreneurship to local high school students. He earned his BA from Columbia University and a Masters in Security Studies from Georgetown University, graduating with honors.

    To support Kevin Strouse in his campaign against Mikey the Beloved (and stand up on this among many other important issues), please click here.


  • Friday Mashup (6/6/14)

    June 6, 2014
  • Time to clean out my “in” bin a bit here – this item from The Daily Tucker tells us the following…

    Adam Carolla says the political left is forcing him to define himself as a conservative.

    The actor and comedian recently spoke to The Daily Caller in an extensive interview about politics, Hollywood and his new book, “President Me: The America That’s in My Head.” TheDC (sic) will be featuring segments from the interview over the next couple weeks.

    “I never define myself as a conservative, but I’m becoming defined as a conservative,” he told TheDC. “I’m now conservative because I wouldn’t want to be what the alternative is, which is scary to me.”

    “I always thought of myself as just a liberal guy,” Carolla said. But after working with and observing Dr. Drew Pinsky, Carolla says he started spreading what he thought was a simple, apolitical message.

    “I just started saying, ‘focus on your family, take care of your kids,’” Carolla explained. “And then all of a sudden, I become Ted Nugent like overnight.”

    (Oh, and after he made this proclamation, Carolla also apparently said here that rich people are “better than poor people. They just are…” That’s BRILLIANT! Now why on earth didn’t I think of that?)

    If there’s one thing that never ceases to bubble up the detritus from the seemingly bottomless well of my disgust, it’s a claim from a self-described conservative that he or she had no choice but to change their political allegiance and/or worldview in general because of the alleged excesses of “the professional left,” or whatever the wingnutosphere is calling filthy, unkempt liberal blogger types such as yours truly this week.

    And that is particularly true in the case of Carolla, who is responsible for the following:

  • Here, he said that the Occupy protestors were “self-entitled and coddled by their mothers” (I’d like to see Carolla say that to Scott Olsen, noted here).
  • Said that California was “Eden” run into the ground by “Democrat snakes” here (lovely).
  • Said our government is bought and paid for by “trial lawyers” all because he’s in a fight with a patent troll, as noted here (if he were interested in being fair, which he isn’t, he really would single out both sides).
  • It looks like somebody called out Carolla here (good for this person…I think the basic disagreement is that Carolla said that blacks and Latinos don’t have strong father figures, or something – you can “paint with a broad brush” that way concerning whites too…I think the person making the criticism was too strident, but when people like Carolla spread around inflammatory stuff, yeah, those on the receiving end will get pissed).
  • Oh, but when he’s hawking a book, Carolla acts like, well, I’m a Democrat some ways but a Republican other ways…bullshit – you just want all the $$ you can get regardless of who it’s from; try being honest enough to admit that (here).
  • In another lifetime, I can recall having a good laugh or two from “The Man Show,” with Carolla and Jimmy Kimmel. And that was because I knew it was tongue in cheek, though I guess that, based on the lack of intelligence Carolla displays here (including some comments about women comediennes), perhaps he thought it was a documentary.

  • Next, I should point out that we recently observed the 30th anniversary of the formation of former Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese’s pornography commission, noted by Marvin Olasky here, who also tells us the following (here)…

    Witherspoon Institute conference research (proceedings published as “The Social Costs of Pornography”) showed that two-thirds of 18-to-34-year-old men visit porn sites regularly. (My hunch is that many of them go to church less often in part because they marry less often, and they marry less often in part because they access pornography more often.) Many men find it harder to relate to real women. Most divorces involve one partner compulsively using pornography.

    I should tell you that Olasky really isn’t interested in a fair critique of the Meese Commission here, but really just wants to trot out tired right-wing straw man arguments such as those in the prior paragraph, along with criticizing those admittedly ribald, anything-goes-at-times 1960s, of course (and for some real, honest-to-goodness science on this subject, the author of this column tells us that, no, there isn’t any actual, causal evidence linking pornography and divorce rates…surprise, surprise I know).

    As for the Meese Commission itself, though, I think it’s instructive to review the following (noted here from 1986)…

    WASHINGTON — A federal commission on pornography formally released its long-awaited report yesterday, urging Congress to enact tough anti-pornography laws and calling on citizens to picket stores that sell sexually explicit films and magazines.

    The report, based on a year-long study by 11 commission members hand- picked by Attorney General Edwin Meese 3d, calls for a sweeping federal, state and local crackdown on the $8 billion-a-year pornography industry.

    It specifically asserts that pornography can provoke violent sex offenses – a finding that has been challenged by civil libertarians and one that the commission itself concedes it cannot prove.

    …the report was denounced…by ACLU attorney Barry Lynn, who has consistently been the panel’s sharpest critic. The ACLU has long opposed the commission, saying President Reagan created it to appease conservative supporters, that it was stacked with anti-pornography members and that its proposals smacked of censorship.

    “All that this government study proves is that if you give a biased pro- censorship commission a half-million tax dollars and a year, they will write a lopsided, pro-censorship report,” Lynn said yesterday.

    He characterized the report as “little more than prudishness and moralizing masquerading behind social science jargon” and predicted it would spawn numerous court battles because conservative religious groups will use it to “drive the country back to the sexual dark ages.”

    Meese defended the $500,000 cost of the commission study as money well spent.

    So what did the Meese Commission concoct with their half-a-million-dollar budget? I give you the following from here

    The Commission’s proposals for dealing with porn are hair-raising. They want stepped-up enforcement of existing obscenity laws; increased cooperation between local, state, and federal law enforcement personnel and the IRS; and a computerized national database. They want forfeiture statutes, so that any proceeds from production of pornography can be confiscated. They want Congress to enact a statute that the distribution of obscene material “affects” interstate commerce. This would eliminate the necessity to prove transportation in interstate commerce in obscenity cases. According to the Commission, hiring individuals to participate in commercial sexual performances should be made an unfair labor practice. Transmission of obscene matter over cable TV and telephone lines should be proscribed. Obscenity should be made a predicate act for a group to be investigated under the frighteningly powerful Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), and states should enact their own versions of RICO. All state legislatures should adopt the lower standard of proof of obscenity found in Miller v. California. [11] Pandering laws should be used against porn producers. Conditions within adult bookstores should be investigated and health violations prosecuted. Peep show booths should not be allowed to have doors or holes in the walls between the booths. Use of performers under the age of twenty-one should be forbidden by act of Congress, and producers, retailers, and distributors of sexually explicit material should be required to maintain records containing consent forms and proof of performers’ ages. [12]

    It was only by a very narrow margin that the Commission did not vote to recommend legislation that would have made vibrators and dildos obscene.

    And there are people out there who claim that the Democrats are the party of “big gumint”…

    Olasky tries to be clever in his clownhall.com piece by re-imagining the Ogden Nash poem “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker” to try and prove his point (don’t ask). He fails miserably, but I have to confess that I can do no better, mainly because, for the life of me, I can’t think of a word that rhymes with Olasky.

  • Further, it looks like it’s time for more right-wing outrage aimed at Number 44 (here)…

    President Barack Obama’s new report on fatherless kids doesn’t include a single mention of the words “marriage” or “married.”

    The report admits that fatherlessness almost doubles the failure rate among African-American and Latino kids, yet it calls for government to arrange substitute fathers for huge numbers of fatherless boys and girls instead of binding fathers to their kids via marriage.

    “The President is calling on Americans interested in getting involved in My Brother’s Keeper to sign up as long-term mentors to young people,” according to the White House press statement that accompanies the report, which is titled “Opportunity for All: My Brother’s Keeper.”

    “This effort will engage Americans from all walks of life to sign up to develop sustained and direct mentoring relationships that will play vital roles in the lives of young people,” it declares.

    The White House’s focus on substitute fathers will likely widen economic gaps, which have widened to record levels under his administration. Wealthier Americans — including many outspoken liberals such as Obama and his wife — tend to follow the traditional “life script” of education first, then marriage, then childrearing, even as they promote family “diversity” for others.

    And yeah, the dookey gets pretty thick from that point on, in an article that Tucker Carlson’s Crayon Scribble Page ostensibly passes off as “news.”

    By the way, did you know that My Brother’s Keeper is funded “through an extensive partnership with local and national leaders in philanthropy, business, government, faith communities, and media,” as noted here? However, Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History “can waste money on a pro marriage initiative intended to boost the economic levels of poor people, who are disproportionally Black and Latino” with nary a complaint from Munro and his ideological fellow travelers, apparently.

    Also, I think the notion that the Obamas apparently don’t know or care about anything in the realm of living a responsible family life, particularly when you factor in raising kids (two daughters, of course), is too hilarious for words. As proof, I give you the following excerpts from here

    Too Tired For Date Night

    “Our life before moving to Washington was filled with simple joys…Saturdays at soccer games, Sundays at grandma’s house…and a date night for Barack and me was either dinner or a movie, because as an exhausted mom, I couldn’t stay awake for both.”

    Tell it like it is, Michelle. A working mother sometimes doesn’t have it in her for an Olive Garden date and a romantic comedy.

    Money Can’t Buy You Love

    “You see, Barack and I were both raised by families who didn’t have much in the way of money or material possessions but who had given us something far more valuable – their unconditional love, their unflinching sacrifice, and the chance to go places they had never imagined for themselves.”

    It takes a lot more than fancy presents to convey love to your kiddies!

    What It Means To Be A Man/Father

    “You see, for my dad, that’s what it meant to be a man.

    Like so many of us, that was the measure of his success in life – being able to earn a decent living that allowed him to support his family.”

    Translation: men who stick around and take care of their families? Thumbs up.

    Oh yeah, that definitely reflects the “Democrat Party’s post-1960s collective hostility to independent families,” doesn’t it?

    But of course, Neil Munro is a card-carrying anti-Obama propagandist from way back, as noted here.

  • Continuing, it looks like, based on last Tuesday’s primary elections, the Teahadists have a new hero, and that would be Mike Turner, running for the U.S. House from Oklahoma (natch – here)…

    I was first elected to the statehouse in 2012. A political outsider and underdog, I swore off lobbyist and PAC dollars from day one and instead did things the old fashioned way – handshakes and shoe leather. I’m proud to say that I visited over 13,000 homes in my district, listening and learning , en route to becoming the only challenger to defeat an Oklahoma legislative incumbent that cycle.

    That was despite my moderate opponent who’d been in office for eight years starting the campaign with a six-figure war chest. We won because the citizens of our district wanted principled leadership.
    Since that time , I’ve kept on fighting as a bold, next-generation conservative.

    I said ‘No’ to the state House budget in 2013 because we just couldn’t afford it. We need to be stopping big government in its tracks, cutting taxes, and unleashing the economic engine instead of expanding all the things that have slowed us down in the first place.

    Check, please…

    Sure, it’s easy to “(swear) off lobbyist and PAC dollars” when you’re basically loaded, as noted here (either trucking or something called “Supercuts,” which I believe is a hair salon – and I’ll overlook the “eye booger” stuff…like, ewwwwww).

    And did you know that, in his efforts to punish Teh Gay, Turner tried to ban ALL marriages in his state (here)? Also, he protested a planned visit by Attorney General Eric Holder to the point where Holder decided to cancel (here), which I would say is a fairly petulant act for a public official.

    Yeah, Turner looks like a dyed-in-the-wool wingnut, apparently even criticizing Repug governor Mary Fallin for not being conservative enough, or something (apparently Turner helped shoot down, so to speak, a rare Fallin veto), despite this.

    My guess is that Oklahoma deserves him.

  • Finally, our wet noodle PA-08 U.S. House Rep recently weighed in on the pages of his PR machine (otherwise known as the Bucks County Courier Times) stating, in light of the recent revelations concerning the VA and veterans who died while awaiting care, that “funding isn’t the issue at the VA – mismanagement is” (here).

    Actually, the real issue is noted as follows by Joe Conason here

    Anyone paying attention knows by now that those secret waiting lists at VA facilities — which may have led to the premature deaths of scores of injured veterans — are a direct consequence of policy decisions made in the White House years before President Barack Obama got there. The misguided invasion of Iraq — carried out with insufficient numbers of troops shielded by insufficient armor — led directly to thousands of new cases of traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other physical and mental disabilities requiring speedy treatment.

    A substantial portion of the estimated $3 trillion price of that war is represented by the cost of decent care for veterans. But even as the war raged on, the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress repeatedly refused to appropriate sufficient funding for veterans’ health care. This financial stinginess toward vets was consistent with Bush’s refusal to take any steps to pay for his expensive war (and decision to protect his skewed tax cuts instead).

    As Alec MacGillis pointed out this week in the New Republic, legislators who voted for war while opposing expansion of the VA are hypocrites, particularly when they claim to care about veterans. So are the Republican governors who refuse to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which keeps hundreds of thousands of impoverished vets from getting health care.

    Breaking down the voting record, year after year, the pattern along party lines is clear: Republicans regularly propose cuts in VA funding and oppose increases sponsored by Democrats — a pattern that extends back to the first years of the Iraq and Afghan conflicts and continues to this day. As recently as February, Senate Republicans filibustered a Democratic bill that would have added $20 billion in VA funding over the next decade and would have built at least 26 new VA health care facilities. The Republicans killed that bill because Democratic leaders refused to add an amendment on Iran sanctions — designed to scuttle the ongoing nuclear negotiations — and because they just don’t want to spend more money on vets.

    In his Courier Times column (now behind the paper’s ridiculous pay wall), Mikey tells us that duplicate payments are an issue the VA has to deal with, particularly in its Philadelphia office, which is true; I have no contrary information on that anyway (he also pointed that out in this New York Times story from two years ago, which kind of makes me wonder why this wasn’t addressed earlier; not necessarily blaming the House and its Repug Party “leadership” on that one alone – just an observation).

    Fitzpatrick also tells us that he supports something called HR 4031, which would lead to a quicker firing of VA employees. I’m not in a rush to get rid of anyone working at the VA, particularly in this still-wretched economy (about which Mikey and his pals really have done nothing), and also because of the following (noted in the Wikipedia article)…

    One alleged unintended consequence might be “any change that would single out VA employees for punishment or discharge could have a chilling effect on VA’s ability to recruit and retain high-quality employees.”[7] Their statement also indicated that they feared anyone fired could sue, leading to “lengthy litigation.”

    And how exactly would that lead to faster processing of veterans’ claims so that they could receive treatment earlier?

    Another piece of legislation Mikey supports is HR 2590, sponsored by Chris Gibson, which “amend(s) the Wounded Warrior Act to establish a specific timeline for the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to achieve integrated electronic health records…”

    That’s nice, but wasn’t a bill like this introduced last year before it died in a House committee (noted here, and by a Republican no less)? Oh, but there wasn’t a scandal all over the place back then to make the Obama Administration look bad back then, was there?

    And when it comes to gathering some perspective on this issue, I give you the following from here

    Carl Blake of the Paralyzed Veterans of America suggested the Senate panel go undercover. “If the (Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, including the thoroughly odious Richard Burr) wants to get the truth about the quality of VA health care, spend a day walking around in a major VA medical facility,” he said. “We can guarantee that you will likely hear complaints about how long it took to be seen, but rare is the complaint about the actual quality of care … It is no secret that wait times for appointments for specialty care in the private sector tend to be extremely long.” The public, he says, has gotten a distorted view of the quality of VA care at various field hearings where a handful of those with poor experiences have taken center stage.

    As far as I’m concerned, you can safely file this in the fairly huge Fitzpatrick file of virtually meaningless legislative gestures that are subsequently forgotten after the news cycle moves onto something else. However, if you want real leadership on this and other issues, I strongly urge you to support an honest-to-goodness veteran running for the PA-08 congressional seat, Dem Kevin Strouse by name, by clicking here.


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