Tuesday Mashup Part One (7/27/10)

July 27, 2010

  • 1) Gee, what a typically hilarious Fix Noise headline.

    Of course, as you read the actual story, you discover the following…

    The extreme overgrowth and underbrush on the hillside behind the Richard H. Chambers U.S. Courthouse in Pasadena, California, prompted GSA’s Pacific Rim Region property management to take quick action to avoid summer fires.

    Ultimately, the choice was easy: Use a herd of goats. The decision meant a cost-saving to taxpayers over hiring manual labor and proved to be better for the environment than bulldozers.

    The unusually wet winter and spring caused the overgrowth, which, in California, always means the risk of summer wildfires and grass fires because of tinder underbrush.

    And by the way, GSA stands for Government Services Administration.

    So, basically, it was the idea of the government to save money using the goats to clear the brush instead of paying workers to do it.

    Gosh, what will the public sector think of next?

  • 2) Also, this AP story tells us the following (on Obama and the economy)…

    “This is a choice between the policies that led us into the mess or the policies that are leading out of the mess,” Obama said recently in Las Vegas.

    Trouble is, it’s a tough sell to voters who’ve seen little progress.

    Unemployment is stuck near double digits and polls show many voters have decided Obama’s policies are to blame, not his predecessor’s.

    Oh, I beg to differ (here) – not saying Obama couldn’t have done more, but let’s be fair here.

  • 3) Also, The New York Times recently reported the following (here)…

    At a closed-door meeting of the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday, participants said Democrats were clearly divided while Republicans wanted assurances that any bill would be developed openly, allowing them to propose amendments. In a sign of how combustible the issue could be, Senator Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat and the committee’s chairman, has so far refused to make that commitment.

    Gee, I wonder why Baucus wouldn’t commit to allowing the Repugs to propose amendments?

    Maybe this explains it (the headline says it all).

  • 4) Finally (sticking with the Times), Eric Schlosser, the author of “Fast Food Nation,” wrote the following Op-Ed recently (here)…

    EVERY day, about 200,000 Americans are sickened by contaminated food. Every year, about 325,000 are hospitalized by a food-borne illness. And the number who are killed annually by something they ate is roughly the same as the number of Americans who’ve been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003.

    Those estimates, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggest the scale of the problem. But they fail to convey the human toll. The elderly and people with compromised immune systems face an elevated risk from food-borne pathogens like listeria, campylobacter and salmonella. By far the most vulnerable group, however, are children under the age of 4. Our food will never be perfectly safe — and yet if the Senate fails to pass the food safety legislation now awaiting a vote, tens of thousands of American children will become needlessly and sometimes fatally ill.

    Almost one year ago, the House of Representatives passed the Food Safety Enhancement Act with bipartisan support. A similar bill, the F.D.A. Food Safety Modernization Act, was unanimously approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in November. This legislation would grant the Food and Drug Administration, which has oversight over 80 percent of the nation’s food, the authority to test widely for dangerous pathogens and improve the agency’s ability to trace outbreaks back to their source. Most important, it would finally give the agency the power to order the recall of contaminated foods — and to punish companies that knowingly sell them.

    This bill is supported by an unusual set of advocacy groups: the American Public Health Association, Consumers Union, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the United States Chamber of Commerce and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, among others. Last week, a poll for Consumers Union found that 80 percent of Americans want Congress to empower the F.D.A. to recall tainted foods.

    You’d think that a bill with such broad support, on a public health issue of such fundamental importance, would easily reach the floor of the Senate for a vote. But it has been languishing, stuck in some legislative limbo. If it fails to gain passage by the end of this session, Congress will have to start from scratch again next year.

    Here is more information on the Food Safety Modernization Act, sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin. I would strongly urge anyone from Illinois or any other state of a senatorial cosponsor to contact the individuals listed to let them know that you support this legislation (and to contact any other senator to let them know also, click here).


  • Mad Max’s Health Care Hullabaloo

    December 23, 2009

    (Note: The post title does not pertain to that great blog in which Digby appears in any way…also, posting is questionable overall from now through the end of the year.)

    Yes, I know Baucus is thoroughly compromised by virtue of his ridiculous campaign finance donations from Big Insurance and the fact that legislation without the public option passed out of his committee, but you know what? Good for him for calling out the Repug BS here, including Roger Wicker (and the RNC)’s ever-more ridiculous talking point about “European style” insurance (which, when comparing how well it covers the majority of the people of its countries, actually looks pretty good by comparison).

    (And of course, Baucus, despite this moment of clarity, is still far too polite to call out Grassley for the stunts noted here.)

    Also, as big of a fiasco as this was, just watch and see what happens when legislation on the climate crisis starts picking up steam – ugh.


    Thursday Mashup (12/10/09)

    December 10, 2009

  • 1) The Philadelphia Inquirer Op-Ed board wrote the following today (from here)…

    One would think political leaders would have learned some lessons in the wake of the scandal surrounding the firings of U.S. attorneys in the George W. Bush administration.

    But apparently Sen. Max Baucus (D., Mont.) and some of his colleagues didn’t get the memo about restoring confidence in the Justice Department.

    Turns out Baucus, 67, nominated his girlfriend to be the U.S. attorney in Montana. Melodee Hanes, 53, a top aide to the senator, was one of three names Baucus submitted for the plum post earlier this year.
    Hanes later withdrew her name from the list, and President Obama nominated one of Baucus’ other choices to be the top federal prosecutor in Montana.

    I’ll grant you that this doesn’t quite pass the “smell test,” nor does Baucus’ explanation that he submitted Hanes’ name as a Montana federal prosecutor in February, but reconsidered when their relationship “intensified” in March, with Hanes ultimately settling in the Justice Department (and the press played no role in this whatsoever – uh huh).

    But, true to fashion, the Inquirer tried to hammer the proverbial square peg into the round hole here by invoking the U.S. Attorneys’ scandal under the previous administration (and how cute is the Inky here only noting cases of Democratic patronage, because, as we know, IOKIYAR).

    As nearly as I can tell from the individuals the Inky lists here who benefited from their connections, here’s the difference: these people are all competent professionals (including Brendan Johnson, son of Dem Senator Tim of South Dakota, as noted here). The problem in the attorneys’ scandal wasn’t that the fired attorneys weren’t competent – they were, including David Iglesias – but that, as Max Blumenthal of HuffPo notes here, they were replaced (or, at least, that was the plan, perhaps not completely realized) by Bushco bottom-feeders (graduates of Pat Robertson’s phony-baloney law school, including Monica Goodling at the DOJ who was in charge of staffing) who would have no problem bringing political-only cases to try and discredit Democrats.

    When the DOJ under Eric Holder decides to engage in these tactics, let me know. Otherwise, Inky, save your self-righteous indignation for Adam Lambert, Tiger Woods, or this city’s thug/murderer/crooked politician of the week, OK?

  • 2) Not to be outdone, though (and fresh from its dunderheaded decision to allow Just Plain Folks Sarah Palin column space on its Op-Ed page to do her full-mooner global denialist bit – or, as Jon Stewart has said, “Poor Al Gore, undone by the very Internet he invented…oh, the iron-nee!”), Kaplan Test Prep Daily (otherwise known as the WaPo) allowed Kristol Mess to opine on President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech today.

    And in a startling development for anyone who actually isn’t an ideological quisling and neocon enabler, Kristol believes that what Obama said mirrored a speech by Number 43 in 2002.

    Before I say anything, though, I’ll merely present the same excerpts and let you decide.

    “proliferation may increase the risk of catastrophe. Terrorism has long been a tactic, but modern technology allows a few small men with outsized rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale….

    “We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

    “But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation,…I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms.

    “So yes, the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace….

    “But it is also incumbent upon all of us to insist that nations like Iran and North Korea do not game the system. Those who claim to respect international law cannot avert their eyes when those laws are flouted. Those who care for their own security cannot ignore the danger of an arms race in the Middle East or East Asia. Those who seek peace cannot stand idly by as nations arm themselves for nuclear war.”

    — President Barack Obama, Nobel Peace Prize speech, Oslo, Norway, Dec. 10, 2009

    Now, here’s former Commander Codpiece…

    “Our second goal is to prevent regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America or our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction….

    “North Korea is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens.

    “Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people’s hope for freedom….

    “States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic.

    “We will work closely with our coalition to deny terrorists and their state sponsors the materials, technology and expertise to make and deliver weapons of mass destruction….

    “We’ll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on events while dangers gather. I will not stand by as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.”

    — George W. Bush, State of the Union speech, Washington, D.C., Jan. 29, 2002

    Now I don’t know about you, but I checked out on what Kristol said as soon as Dubya mentioned WMD.

    Out of curiosity, though, I decided to do a search on some keywords between the two speeches, and I think this actually shows even more how dissimilar they are (and if a keyword appears under one list but not another, such as “protect,” it’s because I could find it in only one of the speeches…didn’t see the point in listing a 0)…

    Obama:

    Law (or some variation) – 1
    Protect -1
    Defend – 1
    War – 2
    Danger – 1
    Threat (or some variation) – 1
    Rage – 1
    Peace – 2
    Al Qaeda – 1

    Bush:

    Terror (or some variation) – 6
    Weapon (or some variation) – 6
    Danger – 3
    Destruction (or some variation) – 4
    Hate (or some variation) – 1
    Starve (or some variation) – 1
    Freedom – 1
    Threat (or some variation) – 3
    Al Qaeda – 0
    Peace – 1

    Yep, as far as Kristol’s wankery is concerned, this is indeed a case of “plus ça change.”

  • Update: I realized later that I made an exception to the “0” thing with the al Qaeda reference, but that’s the only one.

  • 3) Also, former Laura Bush employee Andrew Malcolm is back to tell us the following (here, speaking of Palin – trying to mention her a time or two before I try honoring my New Years’ Resolution to ignore her)…

    Almost nearly not quite one-in-five Americans believes (sic) that President Obama has accomplished enough to deserve the Nobel Peace Prize that he had to go to Norway in December to collect.

    At this point, my attitude is “yeah, whatever”; I mean, it’s not as if Obama hasn’t already pointed out that he’s not sure he deserves it either (actually, I think Obama has more of a problem with this, which I thought was uncharacteristically bad form).

    But once more, Malcolm uses this as an opportunity to try and get a good word in for “Sister Sarah”…

    Meanwhile, the favorability rating of Republican Sarah Palin, an unemployed itinerant author, have climbed back up to 46% from a summertime low of 39%.

    I’ll just ignore for now the fact that Palin has absolutely nothing to do with Obama and point out, yet again, that Malcolm is wrong based on this (and “honorary peace prizes” available to all who just ignore him for the wanker he is – just because I take it upon myself to call out this hopeless partisan doesn’t mean anyone else is obligated to also).

  • 4) And finally, over at The Hill, Repug U.S. House Rep Frank Lucas inflicted the following nonsense here…

    We like to say that we have the safest, most abundant, most affordable food and fiber supply in the world. But this isn’t just a boastful expression, it is a reality. Our farmers and ranchers are responsible for feeding folks living in our country and throughout the world.

    But, cap and tax legislation threatens that safe, abundant and affordable food and fiber supply. The agriculture industry, as we know it, will not survive under the heavy burdens of a cap and tax policy.

    Actually, as you read Lucas’ screed, you find that he incorrectly used the proper phrase “cap and trade” three times instead of the Frank Luntz-approved “cap and tax.” Lucas had better be careful, or else he’ll get sent back to “the factory” for reprogramming.

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

    Lucas’ concern is short term, about decreasing profit for farmers due to increases in the cost of farming and ranching, assuming that farming technology will not respond to the incentive for increased efficiency by becoming more efficient. But he ignores the larger picture. What happens if global warming is allowed to proceed as greenhouse gases skyrocket? What happens to Oklahoma? According to Christopher Field of the Carnegie Institution for Science the future will look like this:

    With severe drought from California to Oklahoma, a broad swath of the south-west is basically robbed of having a sustainable lifestyle.

    And Lucas is acting in a particularly brainless fashion when you consider that his state was a big part of the “Dust Bowl” in the 1930s, a phenomenon which, as noted here…

    … was caused by severe drought coupled with decades of extensive farming without crop rotation, fallow fields, cover crops and other techniques to prevent erosion.

    And as noted here…

    Opponents complain that the bill would be too costly, raising the prices of energy, fuel and consumer goods. That’s based on the mindless notion that doing nothing to fight climate change would have zero economic cost. Yet if the globe warms as much as climatologists predict, the cost of adapting would dwarf the cost of prevention. A report released last week by the U.S. Global Change Research Program found that, without efforts to stem the problem, average temperatures in the U.S. could rise by 7 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. The result: large-scale flooding and destruction along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, ruined crops in the Midwest, rampant fires in California, worsening incidence of insect-borne and plant diseases, skyrocketing heat deaths and a host of other woes.

    For what it’s worth, I should note that I started blogging around the middle of 2005, and I would guess that I’ve probably posted about a couple of dozen times at least about global warming, including this one. And at this point, despite the many, many, many, many, many times I’ve presented scientific evidence to support what I say, the climate change deniers have, if anything, gathered steam in response to the vast majority of people who understand the scientific basis in fact behind the claim that something should have been done about this years ago and must certainly be done about it now.

    And at this point, I don’t feel like being tolerant towards the deniers any more.

    Anyone who argues that global warming isn’t occurring is a stone-cold moron. You’d have better luck trying to convince me that gravity doesn’t exist and the earth doesn’t revolve around the sun.

    And who cares how much of it is man made (quite a bit, I believe) or not? Why does that somehow reduce the urgency as to whether or not we should act in response?


  • Responding To “The Fearful Five” (updates)

    September 29, 2009

    Fearful_Five1
    (Fearful of what their handlers in the insurance racket would do to them if they voted against their interests, that is…)

    As noted here, Max Baucus, Kent (“A Public Plan Would Bankrupt Hospitals”) Conrad, Blanche Lincoln (from top to bottom above), Bill Nelson and Tom Carper (from top to bottom below) did what we all expected them to do today, and that is to utterly cave on public option amendments introduced to the atrocious Baucus health care travesty of a bill (though Carper and Nelson voted in favor of the Schumer amendment, while all five voted against the Jay Rockefeller amendment).

    Fearful_Five2
    This is totally in character (or lack thereof) given the following past behavior:

  • Both Baucus and Lincoln opposed lending any money to the automakers after supporting TARP, as noted here.
  • Conrad laughs here when told of a health care reform ad airing in his state encouraging him to do the right thing on this issue (even if it means the Dems losing control of the Senate – and what good does “control” do when they vote like this anyway? – it would be worth it to see Conrad get the boot over this).
  • Nelson said that public option supporters “don’t have a clue” here.
  • And dusting off the memory banks a bit, this shows us that, given a choice between Ned Lamont in the Connecticut Senate Democratic primary and a certain Joe “He’s With Us On Everything Except The War” Lieberman, Carper chose to endorse – well, I’m sure you can guess the answer.
  • If you’re as steamed about this as I am (though, sadly, not entirely surprised), then I would suggest clicking here and forking some bucks over to a worthy cause in response (though I honestly have to wonder why anyone thought Olympia “Lucy Holding The Football” Snowe would have actually done the right thing here).

    Attribution for the pics is as follows:

    Baucus (here)

    Conrad (here)

    Lincoln (here)

    Nelson (here)

    Carper (here)

    Update 1 9/30/09: Good point here – needs to be repeated over and over to try and drown out the right-wing blatherings on this issue…

    Update 2 9/30/09: Figures…

    Update 3 10/1/09: Typical Carper “Third Way” BS here (h/t Think Progress)…


    A “Remedy” For An Obama AP Health Care Harangue?

    July 24, 2009

    medical_symbol_mdI read a good portion of this “analysis” of the efforts of the Obama Administration to address the pivotal crises it inherited from Bushco, and I found myself wondering how long it took writer Tom Raum to recycle what he’d discovered in other reports, link to some other sympathetic quotes or sources, press ENTER, and then subsequently retire to a watering hole of his choosing.

    (And to think, these jokers are creating a registry to track unauthorized use of their laughable content, as noted here.)

    Yes, I will grant you that there is anxiety out there concerning how our president (who has been in office for all of six months and three days, let’s not forget) is managing the economy and the Dems’ attempts at health care reform (to say nothing of two other wars and coordinating with Congress on cap-and-trade legislation, among other matters), but I will attempt to provide the detail in this post concerning those issues that Raum, for whatever reason, did not.

    To begin, this recent Gallup Poll tells us that about three quarters of those Dems polled approve of Obama’s handling of health care policy, though he is down 50-44 with independent voters (and do you really need to ask what Repug voters think?). Basically, the Dem and Repug numbers are a wash, and the independent numbers are representative of everyone as a whole.

    And Bob Cesca tells us the following from here…

    In a July 14 Gallup Poll, 86 percent of Americans think it’s “extremely important” for healthcare reform to include allowing them to get insurance regardless of employment or medical status. 58 percent support taxing the rich to pay for healthcare. And we all know about the super-majority support for the public option.

    In a June Gallup poll, only 34 percent of Americans are confident in the Republicans to make the right decisions on healthcare policy. In fact, Americans are one percent less confident in Republicans than they are in the health insurance companies. That’s pretty crappy.

    So one thing’s for sure, we don’t want what the Republicans are offering. And we broadly support significant changes in the healthcare system. The fact that the president is upside-down only indicates that, while on the right track, he isn’t pushing this with the ferocity it demands.

    Well, I would say that that changed this week with his press conference (no other reason to give an idiot like Jim DeMint the time of day), setting the stage for what is described here in August as a “month even more heated and critical in the reform process” (and another media appearance followed, as noted here in the New York Times, from Reuters).

    I believe, though, that the issue that is really preventing Obama and the congressional Dems from taking charge on this is the cost (yes, a “master of the obvious” realization, I know). And in an effort to get as much of an understanding of the numbers as I could (truly a daunting task), I navigated here to the OMB site listing the projected fiscal year numbers, and discovered the following:

    The United States spends over $2.2 trillion on health care each year—almost $8,000 per person. That number represents approximately 16 percent of the total economy and is growing rapidly. If we do not act soon, by 2017, almost 20 percent of the economy—more than $4 trillion—will be spent on health care.

    To help physicians get the information they need to provide the highest quality care for patients, the Recovery Act of 2009 devotes $1.1 billion to comparative effectiveness research—the reviews of evidence on competing medical interventions and new head-to-head trials. The information from this research will improve the performance of the U.S. health care system.

    The President has devoted in the Recovery Act an unprecedented $1 billion for prevention and wellness interventions. This will dramatically expand community-based interventions proven to reduce chronic diseases.

    … the Budget sets aside a reserve fund of more than $630 billion over 10 years that will be dedicated towards financing reforms to our health care system.

    The reserve fund is financed by a combination of rebalancing the tax code so that the wealthiest pay more as well as specific health care savings in three areas: promoting efficiency and accountability, aligning incentives towards quality and better care, and encouraging shared responsibility. Taken together, the health care savings would total $316 billion over 10 years while improving the quality and efficiency of health care, without negatively affecting the care Americans receive.

    This is good stuff (and let’s not take for granted the fact that this administration has really made the effort to crunch out the numbers on its proposals perhaps more thoroughly than any other in my memory with the exception of the Clintonites…I don’t have an exact number on how many are now working for Obama, but I’m sure it’s more than a few).

    However, I have two observations:

    1) I sincerely hope the President has a backup plan for financing the reserve fund if the one he proposes here goes up in smoke. As far as I’m concerned, there should be a sliding scale of individual payment rates based on earned income for all workers in this country, not just “the rich” (they should pay more, but to me, that doesn’t mean that anyone under, say, $250G a year, should get off with nothing).

    And please understand that the last thing I want to do here is pay more in taxes, but I think we need to be realistic. I’d propose a three-year tax which would be the equivalent of a nice, healthy round of “V.C.” funding for a startup enterprise, and then the reserve fund should be forced to manage itself based on what would likely be employer payments when companies realize it costs less to pay into the public plan – a public plan is most definitely assumed here, people – than to negotiate health insurance with private carriers on its own.

    (Also, the one person here who has been virtually silent in all of this is Max Baucus, the chair of the Senate Finance Committee. I’m quite sure that he is leading the effort to crunch out some of the numbers I’m noting here, and with any luck, he’ll present them first to his own party before the Repugs, as noted here.)

    2) I navigated to the administration’s healthreform.gov site, and I should point out that there is a pretty cool interactive map of this country by state telling you about current and projected health care costs for those working and unemployed, and it’s sourced pretty thoroughly also. However (and I know this is tough), what I think this site should contain are links with some “ballpark” estimates of, again, how much all of this will cost (for employed and unemployed workers, for families, small and large business owners, etc., as well as the cost of doing nothing). And those numbers should be presented graphically in chart form (preferably pie charts or bar graphs – that seems to be the easiest format to digest).

    I think the Obama Administration is relying too much here on the president’s oratorical skills and his commendable efforts to communicate the misery suffered by those who lost their health insurance through their employers. That is certainly a big part of the story, but the “numbers” piece that I believe is largely missing (despite the command of this information by President Obama, as Paul Krugman noted here today) is what’s causing some of the approval numbers to skew downward.

    And as a result, this gives the Party of No more reason to scream in protest, thus obscuring once more the impact the health care crisis is having on our economy (here and here).

    And speaking of the economy, the AP’s Raum tells us the following in his column…

    Job losses have now wiped out all the job gains since the last recession in 2001, the first time that has happened since the 1930s.

    Pretty funny that Raum points that out actually, given the fact that, if you search on “Bush” in his article, you find out that the word doesn’t exist (as all good Repugs know, the economy is all Obama’s fault).

    (Oh yes, I’ll be sooo hurt if the AP tells me that I’m not authorized to use their content; not linking to them will do wonders for the cause of informed dialogue.)

    Update 1: Hat tip to profmarcus at TakeItPersonally for this (it makes me gag that some of these people profess to believe the same things I do).

    Update 2: Potty mouth Jane H. articulates how I feel about the “Bush Dogs” perfectly on all issues (particularly, though, on health care) at the end here (h/t Atrios).


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