Wednesday Mashup (8/14/13)

August 14, 2013
  • Looks like it’s time to rally around the supposedly oh-so-put-upon American Legislative Exchange Council, as the Murdoch Street Journal tells us here

    The campaign to suppress political speech has found its next tactic, using outrage over Trayvon Martin’s killing in Florida as a hammer. (Last) Wednesday, Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin sent a letter to corporate and nonprofit supporters of the American Legislative Exchange Council, asking them to disclose their positions on stand-your-ground legislation that ALEC supported in Florida in 2005.

    ALEC is a group of state legislators from around the country that promotes center-right reform ideas, mostly on economic issues. It has had success spreading those ideas, which has made it a target of liberal activists trying to cut off its funding.

    Like the Repugs did successfully to ACORN, a left-wing advocacy organization which no longer exists, let’s not forget.

    Enter Mr. Durbin. “Although ALEC does not maintain a public list of corporate members or donors, other public documents indicate that your company funded ALEC at some point during the period between ALEC’s adoption of model ‘stand your ground’ legislation in 2005 and the present day,” Mr. Durbin writes in the letter to groups and companies that have donated to ALEC.

    Since support for ALEC doesn’t “necessarily mean” that it endorses every position taken by the organization, Mr. Durbin continues, he is “seeking clarification” on whether companies that have “funded ALEC’s operations in the past currently support ALEC and the model ‘stand your ground’ legislation.” Oh, and by the way, the letter concludes, he intends to make the responses public at a Congressional hearing in September.

    Translation: If your company engages in political debate or supports conservative groups, he will tie your name to controversies or force you to publicly disclaim positions taken by groups you support. Mr. Durbin knows that if he can drive a wedge between ALEC and its corporate donors, it will help cripple the group’s influence on issues like tax policy and education and remove a significant voice for conservative reform in the states, including Illinois.

    “Conservative reform” being code for gutting clean air and water laws, trying to abolish public school education, disenfranchising poor and minority voters, et cetera…

    The plan also sends up a flare for Mr. Durbin’s allies at agitprop outfits like MoveOn.org, which will then target for public abuse and perhaps boycott the companies whose names Mr. Durbin exposes.

    By the way, isn’t it interesting how the Journal refers to ALEC as a group that “promotes center-right reform ideas” and MoveOn.org is an “agitprop outfit.”

    The strategy was used against Target retail stores in 2010, when MoveOn pushed a boycott because Target donated to a group that in turn donated to a GOP candidate for Minnesota Governor.

    MoveOn “targeted” Target, if you will, because the company did indeed donate $150,000 to a Minnesota politician who opposes gay marriage, but decided not to give a matching amount to pro-gay candidates for balance (here).

    Did Target have a right to do that? Yes. Did MoveOn.org have a right to push its boycott in response? Again, yes.

    To me, it just sounds like democracy in action (which is messy at times, for a reason). Of course, leave it to the Journal to view it as a lefty conspiracy, or something.

    ALEC was targeted last year when former White House aide Van Jones accused the group and its donors of racism during the election-year fight over voter ID laws. Through letters and media smear campaigns…

    Proof?

    …the group succeeded in getting such non-profiles in courage as Coca-Cola, Mars and Kraft to stop donating to ALEC. One result is that ALEC closed its task forces that dealt with non-economic issues.

    That was an effort to minimize the political fallout for members and donors around issues that weren’t ALEC’s core mission, but now Democrats are back for more.

    Oh, so the Journal knows what ALEC’s “core mission” is? Oh, right – “center/right reform ideas”…uh huh. And apparently, that includes widespread lobbying while claiming tax-exempt status, as noted here.

    Mr. Durbin knows that companies making hamburgers or allergy drugs don’t care about stand-your-ground laws. His goal is to scare them with reputational damage by mentioning them in the same breath as Trayvon Martin. This is how the modern left—via the IRS, the Federal Election Commission and now in Congress—tries to stifle political debate.

    Ha and ha (and I would say that writing an editorial like this without noting that the Journal is itself a member of ALEC is an attempt to “stifle political debate” also, as noted here – and of course, lefties were targeted by the IRS too, a fact the Journal choose to ignore).

    Oh, and assuming a bill is ever signed into law containing language directly from an “agitprop outfit” like MoveOn.org (this Michigan “right to work” bill received that treatment, including language that came directly from ALEC), I’m sure the Journal will let me know – yeah, right.

    Update 8/15/13: More here

  • Next, I have a feeling that the other Bush brother is getting a little antsy about all the big media love doled out to fellow Repugs (and potential 2016 presidential candidates) Rand “Fake Ophthalmologist” Paul and Ted “Calgary” Cruz (to say nothing of Governor Bully, of course), and I guess the former FAL guv thought he had to make a splash somehow (here)…

    Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) on Wednesday criticized actor Matt Damon, a vocal public-school advocate, for sending his children to private school.

    Matt Damon Refuses to Enroll Kids in Los Angeles Public Schools. Choice ok for Damon, why not everyone else? http://t.co/yHrTbakeIW

    — Jeb Bush (@JebBush) August 6, 2013

    “I’ll take ‘Desperately Trying To Remain Relevant Somehow’ for 100, Alex!”

    There are a few directions you can go with this, but for now, I’d like to point out the following (here, in which the Daily Kos diarist notes that the “research” in support of school choice is largely bankrolled by the Walton Family, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, and the usual coterie of right-wing propagandists)…

    School choice may, in fact, hold some promises for reforming education since “choice” is central to human agency and empowerment. But the school choice movement and its advocates are the least likely avenues for us ever realizing what school choice has to offer because the advocates are primarily driven by ideology and funding coming from sources that have intentions that have little to do with universal public education for free and empowered people.

    And the growing evidence that corporate charter schools as the latest choice mechanism are causing harm–in terms of segregation and stratification of student populations–is cause for alarm for all people along the spectrum of school reform and school choice. [5]

    If a school choice advocate sticks to the talking-points script and will not acknowledge the overwhelming evidence that out-of-school factors determine student outcomes, that evidence is mounting that choice stratifies schools, and that evidence on how school is delivered (public, private, charter) is mixed and similar among all types of schooling, then that advocate isn’t worth our time and isn’t contributing to a vibrant and open debate that could help move us toward school reform that benefits each student and our larger society.

    And on top of that, this tells us the following…

    Charter school trends vary substantially across different regions of the country. Latinos are under-enrolled in charter schools in some Western states where they comprise the largest share of students. At the same time, a dozen states (including those with high concentrations of Latino students like Arizona and Texas) report that a majority of Latino charter students attend intensely segregated minority schools. Patterns in the West and in a few areas in the South, the two most racially diverse regions of the country, also suggest that charters serve as havens for white flight from public schools. Finally, in the industrial Midwest, more students enroll in charter schools compared to other regions, and midwestern charter programs display high concentrations of black students.

    Since Brown v. Board of Education, public schools have been compelled to address this disparity. That public schools have been inconsistent in this mission is a conclusion that is not in dispute.

    Charter schools on the other hand, — especially those operated by national Charter Management Organizations like KIPP and National Heritage Academies — tend to reinforce geographic racial patterns in their marketing appeals. On their websites and in their printed materials, these charter chains invariably promote their abilities to educate “underserved” communities and “close achievement gaps,” even though there is no evidence that charters in general are any better at this than traditional public schools. In fact, many of them are worse.

    But beyond all of that, this tells us, among other things, that Jeb Bush is criticizing actor Matt Damon for doing something Bush did himself (oh, and last I checked, Matt Damon isn’t a potential candidate for any government office whatsoever).

    However, I’ll let a professed Jeb Bush supporter get the last word here…

    MS_Kelly_J_Bush_0813
    Actually, no, he isn’t.

  • Continuing, it looks like John Lott is all up in arms (pun intended) over keeping the identity of gun owners a secret (here). Funny, but I didn’t see NRA members being so shy when it came to showing off their hardware at a Starbucks in Newtown, CT recently, as noted here (the place where the Sandy Hook school carnage took place last year, for the benefit of anyone who has somehow forgotten that – to the credit of the Starbucks store, it closed early on Friday, but it should not have had to do that).

    (I suddenly realized that, in accordance with the ALEC editorial earlier, the Murdoch Street Journal would probably try to accuse me now of suppressing the legitimate free speech of the NRA…I have a two-word response, and it isn’t “happy birthday,” or “lock n’ load.”)

    I wonder if Lott is trying to hide the identity of gun owners also because, as determined in a 1994 study noted here, male gun owners were 2 ½ times more likely than non-gun owners to be arrested for non-traffic offenses? And by the way, as noted from the same HuffPo link, a 2012 survey found that most guns used in mass shootings were legally purchased – just an FYI.

    Honestly, though, I think Lott and his pals have nothing to worry about (just whipping up phony outrage as usual). From what I’ve read, Gawker and the New York Journal News took so much flak for publishing the names of New York gun owners that I think the chilling effect of that alone would be enough to prevent anyone else from doing it.

  • Further, I give you Mark Hemingway of The Weakly Standard (here)…

    On August 15, 2012, at 10:46 a.m.—one year ago this week—Floyd Lee Corkins entered the lobby of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. He was carrying a backpack that contained 15 Chick-fil-A -sandwiches, a Sig Sauer 9mm pistol, and 100 rounds of ammunition. Corkins has since pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing for the crimes he proceeded to commit. He’s set to spend decades in a prison cell and fade into obscurity.

    But Leo Johnson deserves to be remembered for his heroism that day. The building manager for the Family Research Council was manning the front desk that morning and let Corkins enter the building under the pretense he was a new intern. The video of what happened after that is remarkable.

    After Corkins takes a suspiciously long time rummaging through his bag to produce identification, Johnson cannily stands up and walks around the desk to get a closer look at what Corkins is doing. Corkins bolts upright, gun in hand. Without the slightest hesitation, Johnson rushes Corkins, who fires twice. A bullet shatters Johnson’s left forearm. “And I just couldn’t hear anything, my arm just kind of blew back. So at that point I was thinking: ‘I have to get this gun,’ ” Johnson told The Weekly Standard. “That was my sole focus—I have to get this gun—this guy’s gonna kill me and kill everybody here.”

    From there, Johnson somehow manages to push Corkins across the lobby and pin him against the wall with his bad arm. “I just started punching him as hard as I could, until I could feel his grip loosen,” recalled Johnson. Eventually he takes the gun from Corkins with his wounded arm. Before long, Corkins is subdued on the ground. Corkins now admits that it was his intention to shoot everyone in the building. There’s no question Johnson saved a lot of lives.

    Leo Johnson’s actions were heroic, absolutely, and Hemingway’s piece tells us about all of Johnson’s difficulty with rehabilitation and medical bills, as well as caring for his elderly mother and very elderly grandmother (and yes, Corkins is just another cowardly idiot with a gun).

    But if you think all of this is just a setup to take a shot at us lefties, then you win a commemorative Mexican terrorist doll with the face of Repug U.S. House Rep Louie Gohmert (the commemorative model with the face of Steve King has “calves the size of cantaloupes”).

    Continuing…

    There’s a lot that should be said about Johnson’s heroism, starting with the fact that it hasn’t been widely recognized. Over the last few years, thanks to events such as the Gabrielle Giffords shooting and the George Zimmerman trial, the media have been subjecting us all to a constant and unavoidable national debate about the nexus of politics and violence. This has been unusually perplexing because the media persist in having this debate even when no connection between politics and violence exists.

    Obama_Baby_Teabagger

    Obama_White_Slavery

    Taxpayer_Obama_Oven


    Really?

    The Family Research Council shooting is one of the few inarguable examples of politically motivated violence in recent years, yet looking back a year later, the incident has garnered comparatively little attention. Corkins openly admits he selected the Family Research Council because the Christian organization is one of the leading opponents of gay marriage in the country. He had Chick-fil-A sandwiches in his backpack because the CEO of the fast-food chain was under fire for publicly supporting a biblical definition of marriage. Corkins said he planned to “smother Chick-fil-A sandwiches in [the] faces” of his victims as a political statement. And in case that didn’t make his motivations transparent, right before Corkins shot Leo Johnson, he told him, “I don’t like your politics.”

    Later in the column, Hemingway blames the Southern Poverty Law Center (as if they had anything to do with Corkins and his criminal behavior) for designating the Family Research Council as a “hate group” (with Leo Johnson basically wondering why anyone would do such a thing – making that designation against the FRC, I mean).

    I’ll tell you why – as noted here

    The SPLC gave the Family Research Council the designation due to anti-gay speech from its leaders, which the SPLC says includes calls for gay men and lesbians to be imprisoned.

    Labeling the Family Research Council a hate group puts one of Washington’s most powerful social issues advocates into the company of groups like the Nation of Islam and the now mostly defunct Aryan Nations in the eyes of the SPLC, which tracks 932 active hate groups in the U.S.

    Groups are labeled hate groups by the SPLC — which made a name for itself by using civil lawsuits to severely weaken the KKK and other white supremacist groups — when they “have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics,” according to the group’s website.

    The main offender in the eyes of the SPLC is Peter Sprigg, the FRC’s senior researcher and vocal opponent of the gay rights movement. In May, Sprigg told me that an end to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would lead to more American servicemen receiving unwelcome same-sex fellatio in their sleep, part of a long line of reasoning from Sprigg suggesting that gay men are more likely to be sex offenders than anyone else.

    SPLC Research Director Heidi Beirich told me the FRC is part of a growing list of what the SPLC calls anti-gay groups masking themselves under the guise of conservatism or Christianity.

    “What this really is is a wholesale defamation attack on gays and lesbians,” Beirich said. “Some of the stuff is just as crude if you compare it to, say, the Klan’s racism. But a lot of it’s a little more sophisticated and they try to make it more scientific even though what they’re pushing are falsehoods.”

    I wish Leo Johnson all the best in his recovery, and he is of course entitled to his opinion no matter how much I may disagree. But to use the horrible attack he endured as an excuse to whitewash the FRC’s bigotry is a whole other level of repulsive that I didn’t think I could ever imagine from the wingnutosphere until now.

  • Finally, it looks like Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina (do I need to mention the party?) is shocked, shocked I tell you! to hear Dem Senator and Majority Leader Harry Reid tell us that Republicans don’t like Obama because he’s an African American (here)…


    Yeah, don’t you hate it when somebody makes up stuff like that?

    “Instead of engaging in serious debate about the failed policies of this administration – from the ever-increasing burdens created by the national health care reform plan to the tax and spend approach to economic recovery, along with countless others – Democrats are once again trying to hide behind a smokescreen,” the Republican said.

    Added Scott: “Our country deserves more from those in Washington. I hope Senator Reid will realize the offensive nature of his remarks and apologize to those who disagree with the President’s policies because of one thing – they are hurting hardworking American families.”

    (Just as a reminder, this tells us once again that the “jobs” plan from congressional Republicans won’t create actual, y’know, jobs.)

    And when it comes to “hurting hardworking American families,” Scott has a pretty good (which is to say, bad) track record, as noted here

  • Scott attempted to prevent the families of striking workers from receiving food stamps (including kids).
  • He also tried to hurt the NLRB’s ability to go after law-breaking employers.
  • In addition, he also authored a bill that would have stripped the National Labor Relations Board of its ability to penalize companies that illegally move jobs in retaliation for workers exercising their legal rights.
  • Scott also supported a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that determined that immigrant, Native American and LGBT women should be afforded no protections at all, as noted here.
  • Oh, and Scott also helped slash South Carolina’s HIV/AIDS budget and defended billions in subsidies to Big Oil. He also floated the idea of impeaching Obama over the 2011 debt ceiling nonsense (which led to the sequester, let’s not forget, in which “Man Tan” Boehner said he got “98 percent” of everything he wanted). And while he sat on the Charleston (SC) County Council, he wanted to spend an unlimited amount of money to display the Ten Commandments outside of a government building (all of this awfulness is noted here).

    In conclusion, I’d like to point out that I think Harry Reid is wrong. Scott and his pals don’t oppose Obama because he’s black.

    It’s merely because he’s a Democrat.

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    Friday Mashup (10/5/12)

    October 5, 2012
  • Let’s begin with Fix Noise here, concerning an anti-fracking film by actor and activist Matt Damon…

    Things aren’t panning out the way the left wanted. In the small Pennsylvania town of Dimock, anti-fracking activists claimed the drilling had harmed the water supply. “[W]hile “Promised Land” was in production, the story of Dimock [Pa.] collapsed. The state investigated and its scientists found nothing wrong . So the 11 families insisted EPA scientists investigate. They did — and much to the dismay of the environmental movement found the water was not contaminated ,” (documentary filmmaker Phelim McAleer) explained.

    Oh, and by the way, more on “filmmaker” McAleer is here (I wonder if Leni Riefensthal was his role model?).

    And as far as “the state investigated and found nothing wrong,” the PA State DEP report (linked to Fox) tells us the following…

    DEP has been actively investigating stray gas in Dimock since January when a resident reported an explosion in an outside well pit. Samples of private wells were taken from approximately 24 homes to check for dissolved methane. Nine wells were found to be impacted, with methane in four of those wells at levels that could pose a threat of explosion in enclosed areas of the home.

    DEP cited these water wells in its request to Cabot Oil and Gas Co. for an ongoing alternative water supply and proper venting for as long as the methane readings remain at elevated levels. Cabot is providing those homes with alternative water supplies and is monitoring natural gas levels.

    To date, no indoor vapor problems have been encountered. Additionally, the company has installed a treatment system at another home where the department concluded the water supply was impacted by drilling activities.

    DEP is inspecting existing wells in the area and monitoring new drilling activity. The department continues to schedule residential visits to take water samples and monitor for gas.

    And as far as “the water was not contaminated,” the EPA report (also linked to Fox) tells us the following……

    EPA visited Dimock, Pa. in late 2011, surveyed residents regarding their private wells and reviewed hundreds of pages of drinking water data supplied to the agency by Dimock residents, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Cabot. Because data for some homes showed elevated contaminant levels and several residents expressed concern about their drinking water, EPA determined that well sampling was necessary to gather additional data and evaluate whether residents had access to safe drinking water.

    Between January and June 2012, EPA sampled private drinking water wells serving 64 homes, including two rounds of sampling at four wells where EPA was delivering temporary water supplies as a precautionary step in response to prior data indicating the well water contained levels of contaminants that pose a health concern. At one of those wells EPA did find an elevated level of manganese in untreated well water. The two residences serviced by the well each have water treatment systems that can reduce manganese to levels that do not present a health concern.

    As a result of the two rounds of sampling at these four wells, EPA has determined that it is no longer necessary to provide residents with alternative water. EPA is working with residents on the schedule to disconnect the alternate water sources provided by EPA.

    Overall during the sampling in Dimock, EPA found hazardous substances, specifically arsenic, barium or manganese, all of which are also naturally occurring substances, in well water at five homes at levels that could present a health concern. In all cases the residents have now or will have their own treatment systems that can reduce concentrations of those hazardous substances to acceptable levels at the tap.

    Kind of tells you what Fix Noise thinks of its audience; namely, that its readers are too lazy to go to the trouble of reading legitimate content linked to its own propaganda.

    Oh, and speaking of “Foxy Time,” they’re taking Obama aid Stephanie Cutter to task for supposedly lying about Willard Mitt Romney’s promised $5 trillion tax cut here.

    In response, Forbes tells us the following here

    Previously, Governor Romney has said that his tax plan would cut all individual income tax rates by 20%, eliminate the AMT, eliminate the estate tax, and eliminate taxes on investment income for low- and middle-income taxpayers. He would also extend all of the Bush-era tax cuts that are scheduled to expire at the end of 2012.

    Those tax cuts would reduce federal revenues by $480 billion in 2015 over and above the cost of extending the Bush tax cuts. Allow for some growth in income, and the total comes to over $5 trillion over ten years.


    And since we’re talking about Fix Noise, I thought it appropriate to include this comment to their “story” (which not only wasn’t censored, but actually received one “like,” last I checked).

  • Next, it looks like Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao is in high dudgeon again over something from that Kenyan Socialist Marxist Wealth Redistributor (here)…

    Senate Republicans joined a lawsuit on Wednesday (9/26) that opposes controversial recess appointments President Obama made to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) earlier this year.

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he and 41 other GOP senators are filing an amicus brief to show that Obama acted outside the Constitution when he appointed three members to the labor board in January.

    “The president’s decision to circumvent the American people by installing his appointees at a powerful federal agency while the Senate was continuing to hold sessions, and without obtaining the advice and consent of the Senate, is an unprecedented power grab,” McConnell said in a statement. “We will demonstrate to the court how the president’s unconstitutional actions fundamentally endanger the Congress’s role in providing a check on the excesses of the executive branch.”

    Cue the scary-sounding incidental music – in response, I give you this from last December…

    The Obama Administration, expecting that we’re in an age where the normal rules of politics apply and not an age of nullification, nominated two labor officials for open slots on the National Labor Relations Board. That board will see previous recess appointments expire at the end of the year, leaving it without a quorum and unable to function. The two appointees would fill the Democratic spots on the board.

    Obama picked Sharon Block, a deputy assistant secretary for congressional affairs at the Department of Labor and Richard Griffin, general counsel for the International Union of Operating Engineers, to join the panel […]

    Given recent criticism of the NLRB by prominent Republicans as well as recent successful efforts to block nominees for administration posts, confirmation of the NLRB nominees is not assured.

    Senate Democrats began urging Obama to make a recess appointment of former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after Republicans blocked his nomination last week.

    On Monday, Senate Republicans also blocked Obama’s nomination for U.S. ambassador to El Salvador as well. In response, the White House said the GOPer’s obstruction of the nomination was motivated by partisanship.

    And by the way, more on McConnell’s obstruction is here (which gives me an excuse to put up this pic again).

  • Further, it looks like one of the “winners” from the Willard Mitt Romney/Number 44 debate the other night was none other than Big Bird of Sesame Street (another reason why I don’t watch that nonsense…the debates I mean – with Romney’s actions probably motivated by this too, I’m sure).

    With that in mind, I thought I’d present this (and I know the numbers on the debate are still coming in, and Willard Mitt at least consolidated support among the Repugs, but someone’s going to have to prove to me that he’ll win over more independent voters with crap like this).

    Anyway, even mentioning this at all is just an excuse to link back to this hilarious pic.

  • Finally, this tells us that one of the Senators-From-What-Used-To-Be-MBNA is concerned about more dimwitted partisan political nonsense from the U.S. House Repug “leadership” concerning the post office…

    Imagine this scenario: An American business with a workforce the size of Wal-Mart defaulted on a $5.5 billion payment to its creditors in August, and defaulted again last weekend. On top of that, the company is losing $25 million a day. Nightmare? Sadly, it’s the hard reality facing an institution that has been a critical part of our nation’s fabric for more than 200 years — the United States Postal Service.

    The Postal Service faces serious challenges due to the recent economic slowdown, online competition, and congressional inaction. Unless Congress acts to help fix the problems, the universal mail service that Americans rely on – a service that supports a $1 trillion mailing industry and some 8 million jobs – will be in jeopardy.

    Five months ago, the Senate passed a bipartisan, comprehensive bill – the 21st Century Postal Service Act – to prevent these historic defaults by right-sizing, modernizing, and reforming the Postal Service. It wasn’t easy, and the Senate bill isn’t perfect, but most Senators recognized that we have to act now to save such a critical part of our economy and a key engine of our ongoing recovery. The bill passed by a vote of 62 to 37.

    In contrast, Republicans pushed through the House Oversight Committee their version of a postal reform bill on a strictly party-line vote nearly one year ago. House action stopped there, however, and the bill has languished ever since. Despite claims that they have enough votes to pass their bill, Republican leaders have refused to bring it to the House floor for a vote, forcing the Postal Service to default for the first time in its history.

    Carper sounds like he’s taking the lead on this mess a bit, which is commendable. However, John Nichols of The Nation (who I’d trust over Carper any day of the week) believes that Carper is culpable in his own right here

    (The) “21st Century Postal Service Act,” a supposed compromise now being weighed by the Senate (supported by Carper, Susan Collins, “Cherokee Scott” Brown and Oh-Mah-Gawd-Isn’t-He-Freaking-Gone-Yet Holy Joe Lieberman), would still force the postal service to close hundreds of mail processing centers, shut thousands of post offices, cause massive delays in mail delivery and push consumers toward most expensive private-sector services. It is, says National Association of Letter Carriers President Fredric Rolando, “a classic case of ‘killing the Post-Office in order to save it.’ ”

    Their rationale for making the bloodletting, much discussed in the media, holds that radical surgery is necessary because the postal service is in financial crisis.

    The postal service, we are told, is broke.

    There’s only one problem with this diagnosis.

    It’s wrong.

    The postal service is not broke.

    At the behest of the Republican-controlled Congress of the Bush-Cheney era, the USPS has been forced since 2006 to pre-fund future retiree health benefits. As the American Postal Workers Union notes, “This mandate is the primary cause of the agency’s financial crisis. No other government agency or private company bears this burden, which costs the USPS approximately $5.5 billion annually.”

    Actually, Bloomberg pegs that number even higher here

    Until 2006, the USPS handled its retiree health benefits on a “pay as you go” basis. They weren’t pre-funded; the service simply paid retirees’ health bills as they arose, reporting only those expenses. Because the cost of actually providing health care to retirees in a given year is less than the value of benefits current workers are accruing, that meant the post office was understating the cost of retiree health care.

    Then in 2006, Congress forced the post office to start prefunding its benefits for retiree health care on a schedule designed to reach full funding in 10 years. Now, the Postal Service is supposed to put about $8 billion a year toward retiree health care.

    And of course, “Man Tan” Boehner, that sleazy weasel Eric Cantor and Mikey The Beloved don’t plan to do a thing about any of this until the post office can no longer deliver our mail, and probably beyond that point too.

    What a shame that we can’t write “Return to Sender” on an envelope and send this wretched U.S. House back to some unknown destination instead.

    And with postage due.


  • Sarah’s Saga Of Subterfuge

    September 15, 2008

    The New York Times carried an extensive story here on “Governor Hottie” and her doings in Alaska yesterday; three writers shared a byline and approximately 60 people were interviewed.

    So let’s commence with the gory details, shall we?…

    When Ms. Palin had to cut her first state budget, she avoided the legion of frustrated legislators and mayors. Instead, she huddled with her budget director and her husband, Todd, an oil field worker who is not a state employee, and vetoed millions of dollars of legislative projects.And four months ago, a Wasilla blogger, Sherry Whitstine, who chronicles the governor’s career with an astringent eye, answered her phone to hear an assistant to the governor on the line, she said.

    “You should be ashamed!” Ivy Frye, the assistant, told her. “Stop blogging. Stop blogging right now!”

    Oh, and do you remember the furor that arose when it was revealed that Dubya and his pals used their personal Email accounts to conduct their duties (in whatever form that took)? Well, this tells us that Palin is guilty of the same thing, and the Times provides more information…

    The governor and her top officials sometimes use personal e-mail accounts for state business; dozens of e-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that her staff members studied whether that could allow them to circumvent subpoenas seeking public records.

    Rick Steiner, a University of Alaska professor, sought the e-mail messages of state scientists who had examined the effect of global warming on polar bears. (Ms. Palin said the scientists had found no ill effects, and she has sued the federal government to block the listing of the bears as endangered.) An administration official told Mr. Steiner that his request would cost $468,784 to process.

    When Mr. Steiner finally obtained the e-mail messages — through a federal records request — he discovered that state scientists had in fact agreed that the bears were in danger, records show.

    “Their secrecy is off the charts,” Mr. Steiner said.

    On Feb. 7, Frank Bailey, a high-level aide, wrote to Ms. Palin’s state e-mail address to discuss appointments. Another aide fired back: “Frank, this is not the governor’s personal account.”

    Mr. Bailey responded: “Whoops~!”

    Well, isn’t that nice?

    And as far as separating political and personal lives is concerned…

    Last summer State Representative John Harris, the Republican speaker of the House, picked up his phone and heard Mr. Palin’s voice. The governor’s husband sounded edgy. He said he was unhappy that Mr. Harris had hired John Bitney as his chief of staff, the speaker recalled. Mr. Bitney was a high school classmate of the Palins and had worked for Ms. Palin. But she fired Mr. Bitney after learning that he had fallen in love with another longtime friend.

    “I understood from the call that Todd wasn’t happy with me hiring John and he’d like to see him not there,” Mr. Harris said.

    “The Palin family gets upset at personal issues,” he added. “And at our level, they want to strike back.”

    And of course, when questioned, Governor Gidget couldn’t recall Bitney.

    Of course not.

    And John W. McBush had better pay close attention to the following…

    Laura Chase, the campaign manager during Ms. Palin’s first run for mayor in 1996, recalled the night the two women chatted about her ambitions.

    “I said, ‘You know, Sarah, within 10 years you could be governor,’ ” Ms. Chase recalled. “She replied, ‘I want to be president.’

    Oh, and is it my imagination, but didn’t all of that talk about trying to get McBush to take a “one-term-only” pledge suddenly end when “Sarah Barracuda” was named to the ticket?

    And as far as any notion of respect for diversity is concerned (need you even ask?)…

    ..in 1995, Ms. Palin, then a (Wasilla) city councilwoman, told colleagues that she had noticed the book “Daddy’s Roommate” on the shelves and that it did not belong there, according to Ms. Chase and Mr. Stein. Ms. Chase read the book, which helps children understand homosexuality, and said it was inoffensive; she suggested that Ms. Palin read it.

    “Sarah said she didn’t need to read that stuff,” Ms. Chase said. “It was disturbing that someone would be willing to remove a book from the library and she didn’t even read it.”

    “I’m still proud of Sarah,” she added, “but she scares the bejeebers out of me.”

    That should be true of any other reasonably sane person also.

    And as anyone who watched her performance at the ReThuglican Denial-Palooza earlier this month knows, she knows how to work the crowd…

    Not deeply versed in policy, Ms. Palin skipped some candidate forums (when running for governor); at others, she flipped through hand-written, color-coded index cards strategically placed behind her nameplate.

    Before one forum, Mr. Halcro said he saw aides shovel reports at Ms. Palin as she crammed. Her showman’s instincts rarely failed. She put the pile of reports on the lectern. Asked what she would do about health care policy, she patted the stack and said she would find an answer in the pile of solutions.

    “She was fresh, and she was tomorrow,” said Michael Carey, a former editorial page editor for The Anchorage Daily News. “She just floated along like Mary Poppins.”

    Well, Matt Damon did say that this reminds him of a Disney movie, so I guess it fits (“a spoonful of sugar helps the propaganda go down, the propaganda go down, the propaganda go down…”).

    Continuing…

    Many lawmakers contend that Ms. Palin is overly reliant on a small inner circle that leaves her isolated. Democrats and Republicans alike describe her as often missing in action. Since taking office in 2007, Ms. Palin has spent 312 nights at her Wasilla home, some 600 miles to the north of the governor’s mansion in Juneau, records show.

    And as noted here, Palin has charged Alaska taxpayers for travel expenses concerning those 312 days even though she never went anywhere.

    And I KNOW this will sound familiar…

    The administration’s e-mail correspondence reveals a siege-like atmosphere. Top aides keep score, demean enemies and gloat over successes. Even some who helped engineer her rise have felt her wrath.

    Dan Fagan, a prominent conservative radio host and longtime friend of Ms. Palin, urged his listeners to vote for her in 2006. But when he took her to task for raising taxes on oil companies, he said, he found himself branded a “hater.”

    It is part of a pattern, Mr. Fagan said, in which Ms. Palin characterizes critics as “bad people who are anti-Alaska.”

    As Ms. Palin’s star ascends, the McCain campaign, as often happens in national races, is controlling the words of those who know her well. Her mother-in-law, Faye Palin, has been asked not to speak to reporters, and aides sit in on interviews with old friends.

    At a recent lunch gathering, an official with the Wasilla Chamber of Commerce asked its members to refer all calls from reporters to the governor’s office. Dianne Woodruff, a city councilwoman, shook her head.

    “I was thinking, I don’t remember giving up my First Amendment rights,” Ms. Woodruff said. “Just because you’re not going gaga over Sarah doesn’t mean you can’t speak your mind.”

    Well, apparently it does as far as “Governor Hottie” is concerned.

    I would also like to add some information from an Email I received recently that is making its rounds on the Internet; it was written by a Wasilla resident who is intimately familiar with Palin (I’m not going to mention this person’s name here since it was requested that this information not be posted on a web site, though I believe people should know about this).

    During her mayoral administration most of the actual work of running this small city was turned over to an administrator. She had been pushed to hire this administrator by party power-brokers after she had gotten herself into some trouble over precipitous firings which had given rise to a recall campaign.

    Sarah campaigned in Wasilla as a “fiscal conservative”. During her 6 years as Mayor, she increased general government expenditures by over 33%. During those same 6 years the amount of taxes collected by the City increased by 38%. This was during a period of low inflation (1996-2002). She reduced progressive property taxes and increased a regressive sales tax which taxed even food. The tax cuts that she promoted benefited large corporate property owners way more than they benefited residents.

    The huge increases in tax revenues during her mayoral administration weren’t enough to fund everything on her wish list though, borrowed money was needed, too. She inherited a city with zero debt, but left it with indebtedness of over $22 million.

    What did Mayor Palin encourage the voters to borrow money for? Was it the infrastructure that she said she supported? The sewage treatment plant that the city lacked? or a new library? No. $1m for a park. $15m-plus for construction of a multi-use sports complex which she rushed through to build on a piece of property that the City didn’t even have clear title to, that was still in litigation 7 yrs later–to the delight of the lawyers involved!

    The sports complex itself is a nice addition to the community but a huge money pit, not the profit-generator she claimed it would be. She also supported bonds for $5.5m for road projects that could have been done in 5-7 yrs without any borrowing. While Mayor, City Hall was extensively remodeled and her office redecorated more than once. These are small numbers, but Wasilla is a very small city.

    As an oil producer, the high price of oil has created a budget surplus in Alaska. Rather than invest this surplus in technology that will make us energy independent and increase efficiency, as Governor she proposed distribution of this surplus to every individual in the state.

    In this time of record state revenues and budget surpluses, she recommended that the state borrow/bond for road projects, even while she proposed distribution of surplus state revenues: spend today’s surplus, borrow for needs.

    She’s not very tolerant of divergent opinions or open to outside ideas or compromise. As Mayor, she fought ideas that weren’t generated by her or her staff. Ideas weren’t evaluated on their merits, but on the basis of who proposed them.

    She has bitten the hand of every person who extended theirs to her in help. The City Council person who personally escorted her around town introducing her to voters when she first ran for Wasilla City Council became one of her first targets when she was later elected Mayor. She abruptly fired her loyal City Administrator; even people who didn’t like the guy were stunned by this ruthlessness. Fear of retribution has kept all of these people from saying anything publicly about her.

    As Mayor, she had her hand stuck out as far as anyone for pork from Senator Ted Stevens. Lately, she has castigated his pork-barrel politics and publicly humiliated him. She only opposed the “bridge to nowhere” after it became clear that it would be unwise not to. As Governor, she gave the Legislature no direction and budget guidelines, then made a big grandstand display of line-item vetoing projects, calling them pork. Public outcry and further legislative action restored most of these projects–which had been vetoed simply because she was not aware of their importance–but with the unobservant she had gained a reputation as “anti-pork”.

    She is solidly Republican: no political maverick. The State party leaders hate her because she has bit them in the back and humiliated them. Other members of the party object to her self-description as a fiscal conservative.

    And the next time you hear Palin criticize either Obama or Biden for a “lack of executive experience,” please keep this in mind…

    *”Experienced”: Some high schools have more students than Wasilla has residents. Many cities have more residents than the state of Alaska. No legislative experience other than City Council. Little hands-on supervisory or managerial experience; needed help of a city administrator to run town of about 5,000.

    *”a Greenie”: no. Turned Wasilla into a wasteland of big box stores and disconnected parking lots. Is pro-drilling off-shore and in ANWR.

    *pro-tax relief: Lowered taxes for businesses, increased tax burden on residents

    *pro-small government: No. Oversaw greatest expansion of city government in Wasilla’s history.

    And in conclusion, Daily Kos diarist davefromqueens tells us here why we should tie John W. McBush to Palin as we should to Dubya (placing her on the ticket is another misjudgment that, officially anyway, is McBush’s responsibility for which he should be held accountable.)

    Update 1: And before I forget, here’s the latest on the “Alaska Women Reject Palin” rally yesterday, and this tells us that Palin has now officially broken into double figures over her “Bridge To Nowhere” lie.

    Update 2: And did you know there was a “Road To Nowhere” also?

    Update 3 9/16/08: And as usual, as far as the Repugs are concerned, trivialities like rules are to be followed by other people besides them (here).


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