Friday Mashup (2/7/14)

February 7, 2014
  • I recently read an Op-Ed in the Bucks County Courier Times that supported a bill from PA Repug State Representative Bryan Cutler that would stop the collection of union dues from pay checks, noted in this story (sorry I don’t have the editorial, but it went behind the Courier Times pay wall…I’ll let you, dear reader, take a minute or two to contemplate the truly uproarious notion of a pay wall for the Bucks County Courier Times before I continue).

    The Pennlive story linked to above, in part, tells us the following…

    At a news conference Monday, (Cutler), R-Lancaster County, said his proposal to end government deducting union dues from workers’ paychecks was common sense. Unions use a portion of dues — about 10 percent — for political ads and lobbying, and members can make voluntary political contributions deducted from their paychecks. Knowing a portion of the money is political, the state shouldn’t touch it, Cutler said.

    “I’m not refuting the group’s rights to engage in this kind of activity,” Cutler said. “What I am questioning is the appropriateness of the government collecting political money.” Not surprisingly, the unions see it differently.

    “What is this really about?” asked David Broderic, spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Education Association. “I think what this is really about is preventing people from making voluntary payroll deductions and have the effect of silencing the voice of middle-class Pennsylvanians.”

    Here’s the solution for this alleged problem – leave it up to the individual who is allowing the dues to be collected from his or her paycheck to make the decision, since, as noted above, the contribution is voluntary.

    Besides, under this alleged logic from Cutler, we should also pass a law to make sure that employers don’t automatically deduct 401(k) contributions, for example. Where does it end?

    Oh, but he only wants employers to stop deducting union dues, since that’s political, of course. Dues which are voluntary, let’s not forget (and Cutler says he doesn’t care how the dues are used; no word on whether or not his nose grew when he said that).

    And as a point of reference, this tells us that Dem Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri vetoed a similar scheme by Republican legislators (and this tells us more on who is ultimately responsible for this ridiculous legislation – yep, it’s the Kochs and the PA Commonwealth Foundation).

    The wingnuts and their media acolytes, including the oh-so-august-in-their-imaginations Courier Times Editorial Board, know how deeply unpopular PA Governor Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett is, and they’re pulling out all the stops to try and get him re-elected. That’s what this is about, pure and simple (and here is more typical right-wing idiocy on this subject).

  • Next, I give you some true hilarity from former Repug U.S. Senator Judd Gregg (here)…

    When did all these folks on the left become “progressives,” and what does it mean?

    These are questions that deserve a little discussion because we are no longer being governed by various varieties of liberals but rather by folks who call themselves “progressives,” a label that is enthusiastically disseminated by their allies in the press such as The New York Times and NPR.

    These people’s purpose in governing is to redistribute wealth.

    This has been announced in a rather brash, but at least forthright, way by the new mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio. It is also the goal, albeit less explicitly stated, of the tax policies of President Obama.

    The term for this in an earlier era would have been “socialism.” So why not use that word?

    The answer is, obviously, political.

    Obviously.

    Oh, and by the way, I’ve never lived under a socialist form of government, and neither has Gregg (and I sincerely hope I never do). When you hear talk about a “socialist” leader, do you know who is being discussed?

    Adolf-Hitler-572
    This guy, that’s who (Gregg basically admits that later in his column).

    And “word games”? Does Gregg mean the type that he played here, when he referred to “reconciliation,” used to pass health care reform as “arcane,” even though he approved of the process himself prior to that? Or when he referred to health care reform while in the Senate as “socialized medicine” here (an appropriate observation on the recent birthday of The Sainted Ronnie R)? Or, at the time when he was called upon for specifics on deficit reduction, he said that the MSNBC hosts who were apparently impertinent enough (as far as Gregg was concerned) to ask for specifics were “irresponsible” and “duplicitous” here (STILL can’t believe Obama once considered Gregg for commerce secretary)?

    As far as Gregg’s point about not knowing the difference between a liberal and a progressive, the best explanation I’ve seen on that came from David Sirota here, who said, in essence, that a liberal looks for taxpayer funds to achieve a desired goal, while a progressive seeks to do that through legislation or some other means of governmental reform.

    Gregg, as far as I’m concerned, was a waste of space as a U.S. Senator, and he definitely is not proving to be more than that (probably less, on balance) as a pundit.

    Update 2/10/14: How does it feel to be a token, Dr. Carson? (here)

  • Further, OMIGOD! Run for your lives! It’s the “Obamacare” Navigators!! (here)…

    In his State of the Union address, President Obama mentioned fixing a broken health care system. Unfortunately, the president provided no specifics about how to fix errors already experienced during the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), such as securing ethical and well-screened insurance navigators who handle personal information of health insurance enrollees.

    Dropping the ball on consumer protections, the federal government’s inadequate screening and training process for navigators exposes consumers to serious risks of fraud and identity theft.

    Proof? Anywhere in sight? Hello??

    Meanwhile, Dr. Kavita Patel tells us about the navigator selection and training process here

    They’re really just trying to sign people up for health care…. They went through the requisite 20 hours of training … [they] are people who know the health care system, are from nonprofits in the communities, community health centers. And they actually have gone through a longer period of health care training that will help to get people signed up. … A lot of what they are trying to do is just meet the demands, there are so many people asking questions.

    Let’s not forget also that the Affordable Care Act navigators have been baselessly tied to unions and ACORN (an organization which, let’s not forget, no longer exists) among other related falsehoods noted here.

    And of course, this (and this) tell us that ALEC (the author of this Daily Tucker piece belongs to this outfit – yep, Chuck and Dave are at it again!) isn’t exactly an impartial observer on this issue anyway.

  • Continuing, this tells us the following…

    Lawmakers are pushing to impose federal standards for protecting the country’s electric grid from attack in the wake of a new report about a sniper assault on a California electrical substation last year that has raised fears the power grid is vulnerable to terrorism.

    The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she and fellow senators plan to ask the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has jurisdiction over the electric grid’s reliability, to “set minimum security standards for critical substations.”

    The April 16, 2013 the attack on Pacific Gas & Electric’s Metcalf transmission substation involved snipping AT&T fiber-optic lines to knock out phone and 911 service, and firing shots into a PG&E substation, causing outages. The assault had not been widely publicized until The Wall Street Journal reported new details in a story on Wednesday.

    Actually, Congress was ready to pass something in 2010 called the Grid Reliability and Infrastructure Defense (GRID) Act here (maybe not the catchiest acronym, but it gets to the point), which “amends the Federal Power Act to give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authority to issue emergency orders to protect the electricity grid from a cyber-attack, electromagnetic weapon attack, a geomagnetic storm, or a direct physical attack on the bulk-power system or defense critical electric infrastructure.”

    The Act, believe it or not, passed the U.S. House unanimously. However, it died in the U.S. Senate. Why?

    Because Repug U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska killed it, that’s why (here). And as nearly as I can determine, she objected to the regulatory enforcement provisions.

    As noted here from 2011…

    Murkowski, R-Alaska, today called on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to immediately initiate a formal process to address electricity reliability issues raised by the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory agenda.

    In a letter to FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff, Murkowski requested the commission provide, within six months, a thorough analysis of the cumulative impact that proposed EPA regulations could have on the reliability of the nation’s power grid. Murkowski mentioned the Utility MACT and Cross State Air Pollution rules specifically as being of concern, and said FERC should conduct its analysis in concert with the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) and the Electric Reliability Organization it has certified.

    “The pace and aggressiveness of these environmental regulations should be adjusted to reflect and consider the overall risk to the bulk power system,” Murkowski said, quoting NERC’s 2010 Special Reliability Scenario Assessment. “The regional nature of the nation’s power system does not allow for the seamless transfer of power from any point in the country to any other, which means power outages could occur in a particular region even though excess generation exists elsewhere.”

    And how exactly is that different from what we have right now anyway? Do you know, dear reader, that Texas has its own grid, for example?

    It’s not a bit out of character to see Murkowski objecting to increased regulatory enforcement given her prior related votes as noted here (hooked on fossil fuel donations also, as noted here). However, her “dependency,” if you will, manifest in her opposition to increased regulatory enforcement, has now led us to the point where we’re exposing our vital infrastructure to increased risk of attack, to say nothing of the slow suffocation of this planet as a whole.

  • Finally, I shouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see conservatives dumping on the grave of the recently deceased Pete Seeger, as Paul Kengor does here

    Seeger’s most disturbing work as a Marxist minstrel was his crooning for “The Almanacs,” which historian Ron Radosh – himself a former red-diaper baby – calls a “communist folk-singing group.” At varying times, “The Almanacs” included Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Burl Ives, and Will Geer, later known as “Grandpa” on TV’s “The Waltons.” Seeger founded the group in 1941.

    The most egregious work by “The Almanacs” was its propaganda for the insidious American Peace Mobilization, which Congress identified as “one of the most seditious organizations which ever operated in the United States” and “one of the most notorious and blatantly communist fronts ever organized.” Founded in 1940, the objective of the American Peace Mobilization was to keep America out of the war against Hitler. This also meant no Lend-Lease money to Britain.

    Why did the American Peace Mobilization take such a position? It did so because Hitler signed an alliance with Stalin. For American communists, any friend of Stalin was a friend of theirs. They literally swore an oath, formally pledging to a “Soviet America” and to “the triumph of Soviet power in the United States.” They were unflinchingly devout Soviet patriots.

    I’m not going to try and unpackage all of this stuff from Kengor – I’m sure there’s truth scattered amidst the wingnuttery – but I do want to point out something about those who opposed this country’s entry into World War II.

    Kengor’s column doesn’t mention the America First Committee, which also opposed entry into World War II. And who were members of that group, you ask?

    As noted here

    Progressive senators may have helped the Committee, but its most important supporters were a core group of Republican Chicago businessmen. Chief among them was General Robert Wood, CEO of Sears, Roebuck, who had replaced the impossibly young R. Douglas Stuart as president of America First. Wood had served during the First World War as acting Quartermaster General of the army. After joining Marshall Field in the immediate post-war period, he later moved to Sears, Roebuck, eventually becoming president, and finally, in 1939, chairman of the board. Like (progressive Senator Gerald) Nye (of North Dakota), Wood had originally supported some of Roosevelt’s policies, including the AAA, the SEC and Social Security. But he had rebelled against excessive taxation that he believed was undermining capitalism.[22] Other Chicago businessmen, such as meat packers Jay Hormel and Philip Swift, and William J. Grace, head of one of Chicago’s largest investment firms, had never supported the president. All became key Committee members. Colonel Robert J. McCormick, owner of the Chicago Tribune, was the most influential of all. A passionate Roosevelt hater and Anglophobe, his paper became an important disseminator of AFC propaganda.

    Soooo…because Robert Wood, CEO of Sears Roebuck, Jay Hormel, William J. Grace and Robert J. McCormick also opposed entry into World War II, does that make them “unflinchingly devout Soviet patriots” also?

    That’s what happens when you paint with a broad brush, of course – sometimes you splatter people unintentionally (and yeah, I’m aware of that too).

    It’s typically low for Kengor to attack Pete Seeger after the man is dead and can’t defend himself. However, to be fair, I know I take a lot of well-deserved shots at The Sainted Ronnie R and Jesse Helms, for example, and they can’t defend themselves either. Still, though, I think they should be held to a separate standard since they were entrusted to act in the interest of a particular constituency.

    As for Seeger and his world-renowned ability to move people through his craft, I’m sure that, had he pursued a career in public life, he would have enriched himself materially to a greater degree than he did by taking the course he chose.

    28pete-seeger3
    I would argue, though, that Seeger’s gift to all of us, through his music and activism, is greater than any material sum that could ever be amassed by anyone on earth.

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    Wednesday Mashup (10/7/09)

    October 7, 2009

  • This tells us the following…

    Oct. 7 (Bloomberg) — At least 47 school-age children in Chicago have been killed in homicides, mostly by guns, since the month President Barack Obama took office.

    The latest youth homicide in his adopted hometown was different only in that the attackers used splintered railroad ties and were captured on video broadcast globally.

    The Sept. 24 attack prompted Obama to send his attorney general and education secretary to Chicago today after the killing tarnished the city’s drive to win the 2016 Olympics.

    Oh, so NOW we’re being told that Chicago lost the 2016 Olympics because of gun violence? What a joke (not the violence, which is all too terrible – just this ridiculous attempt at an explanation).

    And get a load of this…

    Chicago’s violence has long burdened Obama’s political career, including the embarrassment of a missed vote as a state senator that hurt his 2000 bid for Congress.

    You’ve got to be fracking kidding me! What can that POSSIBLY have to do with what this story is supposed to be about?

    Yes, the vote in question was detrimental to Obama at the time, but I think the following should be noted from here (about the vote McCormick goes out of his way to mention)…

    …Obama didn’t help his record in Springfield when he failed to come home from a Hawaiian vacation to vote on the Safe Neighborhoods Act. His vote wouldn’t have made a difference, but Obama’s been a strident supporter of gun control, so a lot of voters thought he’d disappeared when his voice was needed most. Obama takes his family to Hawaii once a year to visit his 80-year-old grandmother, Toot. Both his parents are dead, and Toot is the only living relative he knew growing up. This year he almost canceled the trip because the fight over the Safe Neighborhoods Act went on until December 22. The Obamas managed to get out of town on Thursday, December 23, and planned to fly back the following Tuesday, so Barack could be in Springfield when the legislature reconvened the next day. But on the day of the flight, Obama’s 18-month-old daughter came down with the flu. He decided to stay in Hawaii one more day. If Malia seemed to be recovering, the Obamas would go home together. If not, Barack would fly out alone. On Wednesday Malia was well enough to fly, and the family returned to Illinois.

    “I made an assessment based on the fact that I didn’t want to leave my wife and daughter alone without knowing how serious her condition was, and my assessment was based on the fact that this was a largely political vote, in the sense that either Pate Philip was going to agree to a compromise, in which case the bill was going to pass, or there were going to be negotiations taking place,” he says. “We put our families through so many sacrifices in this process anyway that every once in a while you have to make a decision in terms of what you think is best for your family, and I think that this was one of these decisions. Politically, I took a big hit.”

    And by the way, since John McCormick has no interest in balance here, I believe that it’s incumbent upon yours truly to provide the following information, showing how Obama has balanced supporting common sense gun measures with the legitimate rights of gun enthusiasts and sportsmen (and women).

  • It seems like the latest attempt to kill any semblance of a public option that could still yet emerge in the battle for a health care reform bill is the notion from Republican-lite senators such as Tom Carper and Ben Nelson that states could provide their own “public option” instead of one federally mandated.

    However, as Think Progress tells us here…

    Large progressive states like New York and California will likely embrace this proposal; more conservative states may wait to see if these public plans save money.

    And it’s not clear that they will. State-based public options would enter concentrated markets (already dominated by one or two private insurers) and lack the market clout to negotiate significantly cheaper rates or institute reforms that change the way care is paid for. Existing state-run employer plans (and Medicaid in many states) have already given up on the ‘public’ aspect of their plans and outsourced the work to private insurers. As a result, they have failed to significantly lower health care costs or bring any real change to the market place. In other words, like Carper’s proposal, they are ‘public plans’ in name only.

    And by the way, as noted here…

    The (report by the Commonwealth fund, a health policy research organization) analyzed the rate of growth of U.S. health care spending between 2010 and 2020 under three possible reform scenarios. One plan would include a public option with healthcare providers paid at Medicare rates; another includes a public option with providers paid at rates midway between Medicare and private insurance plans; and the final plan would have no public option, instead relying exclusively on private insurers.

    The researchers found that, compared to cost projections if the nation’s health system remains unchanged, reform would “bend the cost curve” — that is, health care spending will still rise, but at a slower rate. They found that reform that includes a public plan tied to Medicare rates would save nearly $3 trillion through 2020, a public plan with higher reimbursement rates would save $1.97 trillion and an insurance exchange with only private plans would save $1.2 trillion.

    By the way, Keith Olbermann will present an hour-long “Special Comment” tonight on health care on “Countdown.” I’ll either watch on the teevee or online, but I’ll catch it somehow, and I think we all should.

  • And finally here’s some crackpot history from The Old Gray Lady and columnist David Leonhardt (here)…

    Democrats dominated the middle part of the 20th century, thanks in part to their vigorous response to the Great Depression. They used the government to soften the effects of the Depression and to build the modern safety net. But they failed to see the limits of the government’s ability to manage the economy and helped usher in the stagflation of the 1970s.

    In response, I give you Paul Krugman (here)…

    Stagflation was a term coined by Paul Samuelson to describe the combination of high inflation and high unemployment. The era of stagflation in America began in 1974 and ended in the early 80s. Why did it happen?

    Well, the textbooks basically invoke two factors. One was a series of “adverse supply shocks”, mainly the huge runup in the price of oil. The other was excessively expansionary monetary policy, especially in 1972-3, which allowed expectations of inflation to become entrenched.

    But where is the Great Society in all this? Nowhere. The claim that stagflation proved the badness of liberal ideas is pure propaganda, which not even conservative economists believe.

    What a shame that David Leonhardt doesn’t even read his own newspaper.


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