Friday Mashup (5/23/14)

May 23, 2014

model-s-official-5b-1024x683

  • This from Fix Noise tells us the following…

    Four years have passed since President Obama visited Kansas City’s main airport, rolled up his shirt sleeves and admonished the skeptics who said Smith Electric Vehicles was unlikely to make good on its promises to build 510 experimental electric-powered trucks and buses suitable for commercial use.

    “Come see what’s going on at Smith Electric,” the president said, inspecting a table full of bright green truck batteries in what was once a maintenance hangar for TWA. “I think they’re going to be hard-pressed to tell you that you’re not better off than you would be if we hadn’t made the investments in this plant.”

    The skeptics turned out to be right.

    Despite $32 million in federal stimulus funds and status as one of Obama’s favorite “green” companies, the firm has halted production, having built just 439 of the promised 510 vehicles.

    Gee, “just” 439 out of 510? That happens to be “just” 86 percent, for those of you playing along at home (and the story also tells us that production of the vehicles may resume this summer…money is slow in the pipeline these days, and that’s definitely affecting manufacturing, among other industries).

    I’m not going to say much about the “follow the money” stuff in the linked Washington Examiner story (from Fox), alleging that Smith “stiffed” the “Missouri University of Science and Technology, the state government, and a local electrical supply company, as well as its landlord, the Kansas City city government.” Also adding to the complicated financial picture is the fact that Smith is apparently an American subsidiary of a British firm. The Examiner article alleges impropriety, but upon a couple of reviews, I think there’s no “there” there (sounds to me like some financial stuff that would be normal for a lot of other established firms…I’m open to an opposing point of view on that one).

    I mainly want to point out that how the wingnuts have been attacking the Obama Energy Department and their loans to electric car manufacturers for a little while now, including here where the number of companies that applied for loans versus the number that actually received DOE loans was flipped on purpose (all part and parcel from this playbook).

    gwb_13-george-w-bush
    Actually, this issue gives me an excuse to plug this great documentary from a few years ago, telling us that, among other things, we were on track for electric cars in this country before a certain President With The Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History sent us on a merry goose chase in search of hydrogen cars (more on him later; of course, hybrid vehicles are flourishing now also – good news on that front).

  • Next, I give you more corporate media “SKY IS FALLING!!!” wankery from Matt Bai here (opining in part about a perhaps-inevitable Hillary Clinton presidential run)…

    The truth is that, leaving aside all this bravado about happy demographics and the disunion of Republicans, Democrats are scared out of their minds right now. The House is solidly out of reach. The Senate is slipping away. And the White House could be close behind, especially if Clinton doesn’t run, and if Republicans can rally around a credible candidate.

    I’ll admit that the odds are long on the Dems retaking the House, but I think it’s premature at best to say that such a goal is “out of reach,” partly for the reason noted here.

    And as far as the Senate “slipping away,” this tells us that, among other things, Terri Lynn Land in Michigan and former Dubya confidant/Repug lobbyist Ed Gillespie in Virginia aren’t faring too well (and while Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao has pulled out close races before, he’s not currently in a comfortable spot with Dem candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes – the slime is already at work, of course…I Googled Grimes and the first hit I got was a site proclaiming her a liberal, naturally, as well as “Obama’s Nominee for Kentucky”…OOOGA BOOGA, WINGNUTS! Blow that dog whistle a little louder, OK?).

    In addition, I give you the following from kos here

    Republicans are acting as if they’ve already won control of the next Senate, and the media appears happy to play along.

    But despite tens of millions of dollars in attack ads and the right wing’s religious certainty that ObamaCare will ride them to victory, a race-by-race look reveals that Democrats aren’t only competitive in this November’s Senate elections — they’re steadily improving.

    The math is simple: Republicans need to win six seats to take control of the Senate, and are prohibitive favorites in two Democratic-held seats: South Dakota and West Virginia. That means they have to win four of the six competitive Democratic seats — Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana and North Carolina — while holding on to two endangered GOP seats in Georgia and Kentucky.

    On the macro level, Republicans are banking that discontent over the Affordable Care Act and President Obama’s unpopularity will prove the keys to the majority. In both cases, the trends aren’t in the GOP’s favor.

    In Gallup polling, Obama’s unpopularity peaked in mid-February, with a 41 percent job approval rating and 54 percent disapproval rating. Early this week, that number was 45 percent approval to 49 percent disapproval, a 9-point shift.

    Similarly, the stunning early ObamaCare success — 8 million signups on the exchange and still counting — has already led to improving poll numbers across the board, like the ABC/Washington Post poll showing support of the law at 49 percent to 48 percent against. In November, the numbers were 40/57.

    I think those numbers are also borne out by this.

    And speaking of Senatorial races, it looks like “Wall Street Scott” Brown isn’t faring too well either (here, engaging in more trickery), despite Bai’s efforts to inflate his candidacy here – second bullet.

  • Further, I give you the latest right-wing propaganda on the Affordable Care Law (here, on the subject of so-called “risk corridors”)…

    The Obama administration has quietly adjusted key provisions of its signature healthcare law to potentially make billions of additional taxpayer dollars available to the insurance industry if companies providing coverage through the Affordable Care Act lose money.

    The move was buried in hundreds of pages of new regulations issued late last week. It comes as part of an intensive administration effort to hold down premium increases for next year, a top priority for the White House as the rates will be announced ahead of this fall’s congressional elections.

    Administration officials for months have denied charges by opponents that they plan a “bailout” for insurance companies providing coverage under the healthcare law.

    They continue to argue that most insurers shouldn’t need to substantially increase premiums because safeguards in the healthcare law will protect them over the next several years.

    I’m automatically suspicious of this story because there are no links to source material that confirms this accusation. Even if it were true, though, I think the following should also be noted (here)…

    The distortion that risk corridors are an insurance company bailout is a frequent theme (not just on Fox but in conservative media generally), but this latest narrative is especially misleading. What the Fox hosts failed to acknowledge is that the estimated $5.5 billion payment doesn’t come from taxpayers, but from the insurance companies themselves. The risk corridor provision transfers money from insurance companies with healthier risk pools to companies with less healthy risk pools with higher than anticipated costs.

    While the federal government may be required to subsidize some of the payment in extreme circumstances, White House officials expect that the entire risk corridor cost over the next year will be borne by the insurance companies themselves.

    And as long as we’re talking about risk corridors, this reminds us that those in the Affordable Care Law are temporary. On the other hand, those in the Medicare Part D scam under Number 43 are permanent (Heaven forbid that conservatives don’t applaud the intrusion into this supposedly sacrosanct, glorious-private-sector concoction…no such complaints about the “corridors” from 2006, of course).

  • Continuing (and in consideration of the upcoming holiday), I give you this from a few days ago…

    With the Department of Veterans Affairs coming under attack, meanwhile down in Texas, on the ranch of the former president, another way was being shown to support our vets. This past week former President George W. Bush brought together wounded veterans and active soldiers to honor them with a mountain bike ride. The message was clear – even when you leave active duty, we will still care for you.

    This from the individual who was taking up space in An Oval Office when the Walter Reed Hospital VA scandal was taking place, and of course the Foxies had precious little to say about it as opposed to the braying they’re doing right now, as noted here.

    (Also, this Fox screed was concocted by Dr. Marc Siegel, who last wrote about “typically unselfish” Number 43 here and the questions surrounding Dubya’s stent procedure – fourth bullet.)

    And as long as I’m talking about Siegel’s piece, I give you another excerpt…

    “Some of the people riding mountain bikes here have PTS (post-traumatic stress),” Bush said. “Mountain biking is helping them get back to as normal a life as possible. And that’s not a VA function, its a private sector function.”

    God, what a baboon – helping our vets isn’t just a “private sector” function – it’s a “function” for everyone whether they’re in public life or not!

    The scandal (yes, Repugs, a legitimate one – at long last, your dreams have come true!) of what is taking place with our veterans and providing the care they need is a bipartisan one, I’ll admit (well, maybe their dreams haven’t come true after all). And I don’t know if Gen. Eric Shinseki should resign as head of the VA or not. If he does, I hope it will not be just in response to a typical attack of conservative umbrage and, at the very least, an administrator at least as competent as Shinseki will be able to transition into the job relatively smoothly (that will make a big difference in how quickly our veterans receive care also, which should of course be the most important consideration). All I’m saying is that we should have a little perspective.

    You want to go after Shinseki? Fine. But let’s remember that the reason so many veterans require care is because of two wars that weren’t started on Obama’s watch (and, in the case of Dubya’s Not So Excellent Adventure in Iraq, this should have been an anticipated consequence of “the surge,” again, before Obama was sworn in).

    And you want to talk about a VA scandal and a certain president? Let’s not forget the following:

  • This tells us about Daniel Cooper of the Bush VA and how he thought his Bible study was more important than taking care of our wounded heroes (along with Dubya’s remark about battle being “romantic”).
  • This tells us how Cooper’s one-time boss Jim Nicholson approved $3.8 million in bonuses for VA executives even though the VA had underestimated the number of Iraq war vets who were expected to seek medical treatment in 2005 by nearly 80,000.
  • And among other things, this (a column from 2007 by Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America), tells us that, for years under Dubya, PTSD was misdiagnosed as a “personality disorder” (the column has to do with the nomination of Lt. Gen. James Peake, M.D., to head the VA after Nicholson’s departure).
  • So there’s a lot more all of us can do to pay better attention to our veterans who have sacrificed (and in many cases, continue to sacrifice) for us. And sure, if Obama’s wretched predecessor wants to host a bike run or a golf tournament for them (which still sticks in my craw because of this, and this), then I have to admit that he deserves a bit of credit too, even though he was overwhelmingly responsible for the wars they had to fight that led to the death and injury of our personnel.

    american-flag
    And as long as I’m on this topic, I have a request – people, can you please fly your damn flags on Monday?

    Update: Uh, yep.

  • unemployment-line_000

  • Finally (and speaking of people suffering), according to The Daily Tucker (cherry picking from a Harris poll), nearly 47 percent of unemployed Americans have given up looking for work due to the still-moribund (for just about everyone, anyone I know at least) economy, as noted here.

    In response, this tells you that “Man Tan” Boehner has pissed away just about $5 billion in economic gains due to refusing to renew an extension to unemployment benefits.

    Are you disgusted by that? Good. Click here.

  • Advertisements

    Thursday Mashup (4/3/14)

    April 3, 2014
  • bill_oreilly6

    I know I’m a little behind on this, but better late than never – I give you Billo the Clown and his latest rant against Dem U.S. House Rep Barbara Lee (here…and of course, I’m going to overlook for now his cowardly language about Lee being a “race hustler,” whatever that is)…

    O’REILLY: Sure, so the right wing, all conservative Americans, we all use, all of us, not any exceptions, we all use, phrases that denigrate African Americans. Do I have that right Congressman? Do I have that right?

    Alright, let’s take a look at Miss Lee’s history. In 2011 she accused the entire Republican party of trying to deny black Americans the right to vote… the entire party. Also in 2011, she released a book that said the Bush administration Hurricane Katrina relief, because mainly blacks were involved. That is, they didn’t want to rescue the blacks, they wanted them to drown, according to this Congresswoman.

    When it comes to denying African Americans the right to vote, Billo is actually correct here – Lee did say that (here). And as noted here, she’s absolutely right (and when it comes to Republicans and race, there’s no apology from Billo or any of his pals for this).

    And when it comes to Katrina, I give you the following quote from Rep. Lee (here)…

    “If ever anyone doubted that there were two Americas, this disaster has made this division clear,” said Representative Barbara Lee, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. “The victims have largely been poor and black. The devastation from Hurricane Katrina only underscores the disastrous consequences of the Administration’s failure to take even the most basic steps to alleviate poverty in the United States.”

    I can’t find anything factual to dispute that (though the notion that Dubya and co. wanted blacks to drown, or something, was put out there by Spike Lee, among others, with Lee making that great documentary to show exactly what happened).

    Continuing with Billo…

    In 2013, she branded Congressman Steve King a racist. She did the same thing to Bill Bennett, President Reagan’s former Secretary of Education. And Miss Lee claims she’s not a race hustler? How about pinhead Congresswoman? You like that better?

    Again, I couldn’t find proof of that claim, but instead, I give you this concerning King and Lee…

    In 2005, King successfully marshaled opposition to naming an Oakland post office after former Oakland city councilwoman and activist Maudelle Shirek because he believed that Shirek was “un-American.” After Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee accused him of McCarthyism, he said, “If Barbara Lee would read the history of Joe McCarthy she would realize that he was a hero for America.”

    On the House floor, King blasted the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus as “separatist groups,” and suggested that a “very, very urban senator, Barack Obama” provided “slavery reparations” through the USDA Pigford II settlement with black farmers.

    During the presidential election, King maintained if Obama won that Al-Qaeda “would be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on Sept. 11 because they would declare victory in this war on terror.”

    Actually, though, Billo is right again about Bennett (shocking, I know), but that is because he said that, if you abort every black baby, the crime rate would go down (here – I hope the repugnance of that remark speaks for itself).

    I guess “racist” is in the eye of the beholder, huh?

    Continuing with Billo…

    Now this is a woman who is in the United States Congress, alright, who is flat out calling people with whom she disagrees, racists, whether they’re her colleagues, or me, or the entire Bush administration, or the entire Republican Party.

    And this woman has the gall, the nerve, to get up there, alright, and then throw out terms like welfare queen. When has the Republican Party ever used that term? When have I ever used that term. The answer is, never, alright?

    So not only is she a pinhead, a race hustler, she’s a liar. That’s who we have representing a California district… Barbara Lee.

    As a literal quote from a Republican politician, be it The Sainted Ronnie R or anyone else, it’s true that the term “welfare queen” cannot be sourced (I was unable to do it anyway). However, I would argue that the context behind the term is far more important than the actual term itself (more is here and here).

    I’ll tell you what – here is a link to about 378 posts from Media Matters that were the result of a search I conducted on the site for the terms “Bill O’Reilly” and “race.” And I’m sure more than a few of them will illustrate better than I can that he has no right to pontificate on that subject in particular.

  • Next, I thought it was a bit surprising to hear that Repug U.S. House Rep Mike Rogers is retiring for a job in right-wing radio, though it appears to be a pretty seamless fit of course (here).

    And with that in mind, I think we should recall the following about the now-departing MI-08 rep:

  • Here is some interesting stuff about Rogers, his wife, and the so-called Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, otherwise known as CIPSA (about how Kristi Rogers would stand to benefit – more here)…and when it comes to CIPSA, here is what you need to know (fortunately, after passing the House of course, it appears to be stuck in the Senate)…

    “It’s basically a privacy nightmare,” says Trevor Timm, a lawyer and activist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “CISPA would allow companies to hand over private data to the government without a warrant, without anonymity, with no judicial review.”

  • Rogers said that those who oppose CIPSA are “teens in their basements,” or something, here (cute).
  • He said here that bombing Iran nuke sites wasn’t an act of war (oh, really?).
  • As noted here, Rogers didn’t share an intelligence notice from the White House in 2011 with fellow U.S. House members, leading to a vote to renew the Patriot Act in which at least 65 House members had “no way of knowing they were reauthorizing the ongoing creation of a database of the phone-based relationships of every American.”
  • He accused Edward Snowden of being a Russian spy here, with no proof whatsoever of course.
  • Rogers said here that the Obama Administration was “Mirandizing” terrorists on the battlefield, or something (yeah, remember that one?), which they weren’t of course, and so what if they were?
  • In conclusion, this tells us that Rogers infamously said, in essence, that you can’t have your privacy violated if you don’t know about it (ugh).

    Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Mike.

  • Further, in the Repugs’ latest effort to find another ideological hero, it looks like U.S. Senate primary candidate Ben Sasse (the “e” is silent, apparently) of Nebraska has emerged as the Teahadist favorite over more mainstream (I guess) Republican candidate Shane Osborn (here).

    (I should back up and note that both Sasse and Osborn are running to win the nomination as the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in the contest to replace Mike Johanns, who is stepping down, with the campaign for November basically serving as a formality – I don’t want to imagine how pathetic it is to live in a place where the election is basically a choice between Republicans, and that is what we have here…love to be wrong.)

    So let’s find out more about Sasse, then, shall we?…

  • As noted here, he basically was for Medicare Part D under Dubya (where Sasse was assistant to HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, who was no prize either) before he was against it.
  • Here, Sasse wanted to move the nation’s capital to Nebraska (huh?).
  • And OF COURSE he was supported by fellow Teahadist Mike Lee (here).
  • As noted here, Sasse said the reason why so many were uninsured wasn’t because of poverty, but “job loss” (he also supports health care reform that makes coverage “portable”…which basically means that, despite what he says, he actually supports the ACA).
  • And as noted from here

    But (Sasse) also repeatedly criticized the president for pushing forward a bill (the ACA) without regard to cost, and without having a serious discussion with the public about what a new entitlement would mean for the nation’s budget deficit.

    It still amazes me (though I guess it shouldn’t by now) how much Republicans absolutely refuse to accept the reality of the cost benefit towards reducing the deficit of the ACA (for starters, take a look at this).

  • Besides, as long as Sasse is going out about how bad the ACA supposedly is for his state…well, maybe he ought to look at this too (from here).

    ACA_Death_Toll_NE

    Update 5/1/14: Didn’t Dr. Dean say that Sasse was supposed to be reasonable or something (here)?

  • Continuing, I give you this from Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds, complaining about how the dreaded “MSM” supposedly hates Republicans (appropriate for April Fools’ Day)…

    California State senator (and, until last week, candidate for secretary of state) Leland Yee was well-known as an anti-gun activist. Then, last week, he was indicted for, yes, conspiring to smuggle guns and rocket launchers between mobsters and terrorists in exchange for massive bribes. Some highlights, as excerpted by San Francisco Magazine.

    Yee told an FBI agent that, in exchange for $2 million in cash, he’d fill a shopping list of weapons, which he took personal responsibility for delivering, according to the indictment. He also allegedly “masterminded” a complex scheme bring illegal weapons into the country, agreeing to “facilitate” a meeting with an illegal arms dealer to arrange for the weapons to be imported via Newark, N.J. In arranging all of this, the indictment said, Yee relied on connections with Filipino terrorist groups who could supply “heavy” weapons, including the Muslim terrorists of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Yee allegedly noted that the Muslim terrorists had no reservations about kidnapping, extortion and murder.

    This all sounds like news. You’ve got charges of huge bribes, rampant hypocrisy, illegal weapons and even a connection with foreign terrorists — and from a leading politician in an important state.

    But — and here’s the part Hollywood would miss — outside of local media like San Francisco magazine, the coverage was surprisingly muted. The New York Times buried the story as a one-paragraph Associated Press report on page A21, with the bland dog-bites-man headline, “California: State Senator Accused of Corruption.” This even though Yee was suspended, along with two others, from the California state senate in light of the indictment.

    L_Yee_HuffPo_0401
    Yeah, don’t you hate it when a story about Dem corruption is totally ignored like that?

    Just to compare and contrast, I did a Google search on “Leland Yee” and “guns” and generated about 11 million hits, which hardly qualifies as ignoring a story as far as I’m concerned (here).

    Then, I did a search for Chris Christie and the 9/11 artifacts he tried to give to NJ mayors to win endorsements in last year’s election (which is far worse in my opinion) and came back with about 1 million hits (here).

    But of course, Reynolds would have us believe that the media hates Republicans.

    Reynolds goes on some more in his screed for “America’s Fish Wrap” about how the Kermit Gosnell stuff supposedly wasn’t covered (Gosnell is the Philadelphia “doctor” who ran an abortion clinic and was convicted on 3 counts of first-degree murder and one count of manslaughter and sentenced to life in prison).

    Oh, please (as noted here, the NY Post, Rupert’s vanity rag, and the Murdoch Street Journal were late to the proverbial party on this, which means that conservatives forfeit the right to complain on this as far as I’m concerned).

    Of course, Reynolds has been a paid propagandist for the right his whole career, such as it is, including this hilarious moment when he predicted doom and gloom for Number 44 in 2010.

  • Finally, I don’t want to devote a lot of time to the latest from “Pastor” Gerson of the WaPo here, in which he reviews the films “Noah” and “God Is Not Dead,” thus giving himself the opportunity to flaunt some imagined moral bona fides once again (I thought this was a good response).

    As long as I’m on the subject, though, I want to take a minute or two and note that your humble narrator recently visited the nearby Regal Cinema in these parts with the teenaged one to watch “Noah” (Sunday, homework done, bored and couldn’t wait for some of the upcoming summer blockbusters, etc.).

    (And by the way, two adult tickets for a Sunday show were $24, and a medium popcorn and two “medium” drinks, with each “medium” cup holding about a half a gallon of soda, were $19. And that was less expensive than playing the concession games afterwards, including pinball, Alien Hunter, etc. Thankfully, he appears to have left that phase behind. Also, I’m going to get into the plot, which I think everybody knows at this point now anyway.)

    So the movie starts at about 8:30 after all the promotions and coming attractions, even though the advertised start time was 8:10 (I must admit, though, that the previews for “Spider-Man 2” and an upcoming movie on James Brown looked pretty cool). And of course, since we’re talking about a pic with Russell Crowe, there has to be a villain in the story. And it turns out to be someone named Tubal Cain, who kills Noah’s (Crowe’s) father when Noah is a boy.

    Well then, Noah grows up, and the next thing you know, he’s married to Jennifer Connelly and they have three boys (I am honestly concerned about her – every time I see her in a role, whether it’s “Dark City” or “The Day The Earth Stood Still,” she looks more and more gaunt; I hope she stocked up on some carbs after she finished making the picture). And they come across a little girl who they take in after a battle, and Connelly looks at her belly wound, and says “She’ll never have children,” which is kind of a miraculous diagnosis in a way I guess.

    Soon enough, they’re trying to escape the bad guys, and they end up journeying to this land where (as it turns out) giant rock people live, and they put Noah and his family into a pit. It turns out that these rock creatures are the “watchers” who were turned to stone by “the creator” when he flipped out after Adam and Eve took a bite of the apple (though the “watchers” were apparently punished for something else). Even though the watchers/rock things threaten mankind with destruction, Noah persuades them to help and they wreak havoc to protect him (I didn’t know somebody stuck “The Book of Michael Bay” into the middle of Genesis).

    And when Noah needs help to build the Ark after seeing visions of a huge flood in dreams, the creatures take care of that too (leave it to “Optimus Shale and the Autorocks” to fulfill Biblical prophecy…and no, I didn’t come up with that one).

    Also, about the little girl with the stab wound…she grows up to be Emma Watson, and Anthony Hopkins (Noah’s father) puts his hand on her wound and she miraculously becomes fertile again (didn’t even need Ron or Harry to wave their wands – tee hee). She also spends just about the entire movie crying also – maybe her agent didn’t get a good deal on the residuals.

    Because it’s a Biblical epic, you can count on a mega-battle scene as Tubal Cain and his minions try to storm the Ark (using spears forged in a fire pit – um, didn’t all of that technology come a few thousand years after this?). Also, I swear I saw one of the minions running around with a helmet and visor, kind of like the one that kept falling in front of Terry Jones’s face in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” And Noah ends up flipping out when he finds out that Ila, Noah’s stepdaughter (Watson) is pregnant, since Noah believes that God tells him that man must not repopulate the earth, and Noah thinks he has to kill Ila’s two infant daughters (Noah eventually relents and lets the babies live, getting so depressed because he thinks that he failed God that he ends up on a massive bender, drinking wine from seashells in a cave – “The Hangover, Part 4” maybe?).

    To sum up, I think that “Noah” is pretty good Hollywood-style entertainment (including some truly ground-breaking CGI stuff going on, though I wonder how that all will translate to the small screen on DVD). But as anything close to a literal interpretation of the Bible (and why would you be looking for that here anyway?), the movie, in my opinion, is all wet (sorry…couldn’t resist).


  • Friday Mashup (11/15/13)

    November 15, 2013
  • I’ve been a bit delinquent in linking to sites where you can provide assistance in some way to the victims of the horrific events in the Philippines recently, and I apologize for that:

    Here is a link to the Red Cross (blood donations, supplies, etc.).

    Here is a link to Oxfam America (financial contributions will assist with providing food, clean water, medicine, and shelter).

    Here is a link to World Vision (same as above).

  • Next (and turning to the kids in this country), this tells us that Dem U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, Dem U.S. House Rep George Miller and Repug U.S. House Rep Richard Hanna support the Strong Start for America’s Children Act – more follows…

    According to a draft, the bill would expand early childhood education from birth to age five over a decade. It would give states funding to expand preschool to all four-year-olds in low-income families who earn below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Line, or about $47,000 for a family of four, based on the number of children that would be served. States would also have to qualify by meeting quality standards and by already providing state-funded Kindergarten. The states would start out having to match 10 percent of the federal money and then increase that match to an equal share by the 10th year, although the match would be reduced for those that serve half or more of their eligible four-year-olds. If a state achieves universal access to preschool for four-year-olds, it could then start working on serving three-year-olds so long as that access remains for the older children.

    The bill doesn’t just address preschool, but also high-quality childcare for infants and young children. States could set aside 15 percent of the money for high-quality education and care for infants and toddlers. It would authorize a new partnership between Early Head Start and those who offer childcare to improve the quality of the care while changing the block grant that supports childcare so that it can raise the quality and ease eligibility. The Department of Health and Human Services would also convert Head Start programs that currently serve low-income four-year-olds into programs to serve three-year-olds and younger.

    The Think Progress post also tells us that the U.S. is 21st in the world when it comes to the percentage of GDP it spends on preschool, even though “the benefits of access to high-quality learning at a young age have been well documented,” as Think Progress points out.

    More on the bill can be found from here (a link to Congressman Miller’s web site).


    So what say you on this, Mikey the Beloved?

    Well, this links to the Education page of Fitzpatrick’s web site, where we learn that he supports tying student loan interest rates to the market, he also supports the Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act, which is commendable– and of course, NO LABELS NO LABELS NO LABELS BLAH BLAH BLAH.

    If he comes out in favor of the Miller/Hanna legislation, I’ll update this post accordingly.

  • Continuing, I give you the following from Doug Schoen of Fix Noise…

    It’s official: ObamaCare is a failure.

    Data released by the administration shows that only 100,000 Americans have signed up while the administration has been touting a 500,000-person enrollment goal for October.

    Reuters is reporting that ObamaCare has only reached three percent of its enrollment target for 2014 in 12 states.

    “Hold me accountable for the debacle. I am responsible,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a House committee. And while I appreciate Secretary Sebelius’s willingness to take responsibility, we’re past the point where blame and pointing fingers will do us any good.

    We need a fresh start with health care. Going back to square one is the only way we’re going to make any progress. We still have an opportunity, albeit a waning one, to make this right.

    (By the way, I apologize for not being able to link back to Fix Noise on this. For some reason, the page this appeared on is no longer valid. A real head-scratcher, that.)

    And all of this from an operation that has not shown an iota of objectivity on this issue (and Schoen is very definitely a part of that regime).

    I think that more context is needed on this matter, and Think Progress provides some here (I realize that I’m echoing a lot of what they’ve posted recently – I see a lot of other good sites, but I don’t see anyone else doing their type of reporting on this stuff).

    To me, the most important takeaway from Igor Volsky’s post is that the enrollment numbers for the Affordable Care Law reflect pretty much those of Commonwealth Care in 2007 (the coverage instituted in Massachusetts by then-Governor Willard Mitt Romney) and Medicare Part D under Dubya.

    (By the way, Schoen actually has a bit of a point in highlighting what President Clinton said about the Affordable Care Act numbers. I don’t mean that to second what Schoen says in any way, but only to respectfully add in response that The Big Dog should shut his trap on this, particularly since his commendable expansion of children’s health insurance in 1997 followed a similar enrollment pattern also.)

    It should also be noted from here that those in need of medical coverage still view the Affordable Care Law favorably, and as noted here, the Kaiser Family Foundation (the only people who should be trusted when it comes to measuring public response on this as far as I’m concerned) tells us that, based on their data, approval of health care reform is “inching upward,” and non-Republicans basically aren’t excited by all of the breathless “reporting” out there when it comes to web site glitches and what not.

    Oh, and just as a reminder, this tells us how much of a “Democrat” Doug Schoen really is.

  • Further (and sticking with the health care law), I give you this from The Hill…

    A House bill that would allow insurance companies the option of offering old healthcare plans is gaining dozens of co-sponsors ahead of a vote this week.

    Sixty-eight House members signed on to the bill Tuesday alone, giving the measure sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) a total of 156 co-sponsors.

    Nearly all of the sponsors so far are Republicans, but two Democrats have joined the Keep Your Health Plan Act: Reps. John Barrow (Ga.) and Mike McIntyre (N.C.). Both are top 2014 targets for the GOP; each Democrat represents a district easily won by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012.

    This is a really difficult issue, made so in no small part because of our utterly brain-dead corporate media which refuses to do its job of educating and informing us, though I admit this matter is pretty convoluted at times. So I, in my admittedly imperfect manner, will try to do so here.

    (And by the way, to prove my point, the news networks with initials for names could provide some historical context to similar legislation as Igor Volsky at Think Progress did previously. Short of that, they could also point out that it’s ridiculous to hold Obama responsible for the machinations of private insurers, though admittedly he was a bit mush-mouthed on the whole question of whether or not we would keep our health care plans or have to look for coverage on an exchange; one again, those who seek to undermine him have found some new, creative way to do so and give the majority of the country the old “middle finger raised on high” in the process.)

    To begin, this tells us that there are two competing bills out there when it comes to people keeping their health insurance coverage. The bill by Sen. Mary Landrieu, while imperfect, represents a workable “bridge,” I think, to help with the transition. However, the Upton bill supported by Barrow and McIntyre is yet another back-door attempt to undermine the law by making “grandfathered” coverage permanent (here).

    This is a typical move for Barrow and McIntyre, by the way; as noted here, they opposed the Affordable Care Law from the beginning (also noted here). And Barrow actually benefitted from campaign funds from the “U.S.” Chamber of Commerce in the 2010 election cycle, when 21 incumbent Dems were defeated in U.S. House races because our media fell in love with the racist-sign-and-funny-hat crowd and the Repugs claimed that they would be better at managing the economy (here).

    As for McIntyre, this “Democrat” voted with the Repugs here for that typically idiotic bill to prevent DHS from using taxpayer dollars to buy and stockpile ammunition until they provide a “comprehensive report” to Congress on its ammunition usage, purchase history and contracting practices (authored by Teahadist Mark Meadows of North Carolina, who, more than anyone else, is to blame for the government shutdown…he authored that letter to Obama saying he, and 79 of his playmates, would block a continuing resolution to keep the government going unless “Obamacare” was defunded – by the way, the DHS bill was a paean to the Teahadists who were worried that that danged li-bu-ruul Obama was going to use that agency to seize all of the ammunition instead of taking their guns away – yep, crazy is as crazy does).

    Oh, and speaking of the shut down, McIntyre was one of the U.S. House Dems who sponsored government “a la carte” during the shutdown, along with Barrow, on at least one related vote here (way to fold like card tables, people…maybe the reason why your seats are “weakly held” is because you lack the courage of what are supposed to be your convictions).

    And this tells us how Barrow and McIntyre voted to cut renewable energy funding (by the way, this Daily Kos post to me is shocking because Mikey the Beloved actually does something good here, and that is to support the Army Corps of Engineers in changing current guidance on how the federal government defines waters subject to the Clean Water Act, and yes, this is a good thing in this context…of course, Mikey probably knew the bill wouldn’t pass in this House, so it’s not as if he’ll ever have to pay a price for it, and can instead try to burnish some imaginary “centrist” cred here).

    Also, Barrow and McIntyre both voted in favor of H 368 Section 2 to defund the government, as noted here.

    I realize that, were we to lose John Barrow and Mike McIntyre, it would be a harder road for the Dems to eventually retake the House. But with votes like these, I cannot possibly imagine why we should spend any money whatsoever or contribute anything else to help them in their upcoming campaigns (and as usual, what Digby sez here – h/t Atrios).

  • Buckyballs

  • Finally, I came across an Op-Ed in the Murdoch Street Journal written by former Bushie Nancy Nord about the so-called “Buckyballs” case – I can’t link to it unless I subscribe (too funny), so I went to Nord’s blog instead to read more about it (here)…

    A number of manufacturers make small powerful magnet desk toys and manipulatives. Buckyballs had the largest share of that market. Even though Buckyballs were not intended for or primarily sold to children, when reports of ingestion started coming in, the company making them, Maxfield and Oberton, stepped up with an aggressive safety education program to warn against the danger of children swallowing powerful magnets.

    Even though that education program was fully discussed with and encouraged by the agency, the CPSC then demanded a recall and decided to sue the company when it disagreed with its demand—all before the safety education program could be fully put into place. A principle tenet of the agency’s case is that warnings were not sufficient to protect the public. Yet, the only evidence it has to support that contention is its speculative conclusions, since the aggressive safety campaign envisioned by the industry was prematurely shut down by the agency.

    “Aggressive safety campaign envisioned by the industry”? As noted here, Craig Zucker, the head of Maxfield and Oberton (the company that made Buckyballs) apparently had at least one opportunity to get this product off the market in 2010; despite that, he still wasn’t able, apparently, to market this product or package it in a way that protected kids, enough to prevent the choking and digestion problems like the ones encountered this year.

    And as I read more about this, I found out that this case has become sort of a lightning rod for the wingnuts, who of course perpetually hate any “big gumint regulation” of any kind (here, though I admit that there is a bit of a twist noted below)…

    Over the last three weeks, more than 2,200 people have placed orders for $10-to-$40 sets of magnetic stacking balls, rising to the call of a saucy and irreverent social media campaign against a government regulatory agency.

    The money from the sales of the so-called Liberty Balls goes to a legal-defense fund. At the crux of the battle is an arcane legal tussle that has caught the attention of a number of mainstream business organizations and free-market legal groups.

    It involves an effort by the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission to recall Buckyballs, sets of tiny, powerfully magnetic stacking balls that the magazines Rolling Stone and People once ranked on their hot products lists.

    Last year, the commission declared the balls a swallowing hazard to young children and filed an administrative action against the company that made the product, demanding it recall all Buckyballs, and a related product called Buckycubes, and refund consumers their money. The company, Maxfield & Oberton Holdings, challenged the action, saying labels on the packaging clearly warned that the product was unsafe for children.

    But the fuss now has less to do with safety. After Maxfield & Oberton went out of business last December, citing the financial toll of the recall battle, lawyers for the product safety agency took the highly unusual step of adding the chief executive of the dissolved firm, Craig Zucker, as a respondent in the recall action, arguing that he controlled the company’s activities. Mr. Zucker and his lawyers say the move could ultimately make him personally responsible for the estimated recall costs of $57 million.

    While the “responsible corporate officer” doctrine (also known as the Park doctrine) has been used frequently in criminal cases, allowing for prosecutions of individual company officers in cases asserting corporate wrongdoing, experts say its use is virtually unheard-of in an administrative action where no violations of law or regulations are claimed.

    So the reason why Zucker is manufacturing his so called “Liberty Balls” (akin to “Freedom Fries” or “Freedom Toast” from back in the day, apparently) is to raise money for his legal defense over what appears to be a highly unusual action by the CPSC, naming him as a respondent in the recall of his dangerous product.

    The Times also tells us the following…

    Conservative legal groups like Cause of Action, a nonprofit that targets what it considers governmental overreach, have been watching the proceedings with interest and weighing taking some action.

    “This really punishes entrepreneurship and establishes a bad precedent for businesses working to create products for consumers,” said Daniel Z. Epstein, the group’s executive director. “It undermines the business community’s ability to rely upon the corporate form.”

    Mr. Epstein once worked for a foundation run by Charles G. Koch, who, with his brother David, has funded numerous conservative and antigovernment or antiregulatory causes. He would not disclose the donors behind Cause of Action. The Washington Legal Foundation, which promotes pro-business and free-market positions, has weighed in with a background paper titled “C.P.S.C.’s Misuse of R.C.O. Doctrine Bodes Ill for C.E.O.’s and Consumers.”

    So of course the Koch Brothers have found a way to worm themselves into this mess.

    Anyone have any idea why the CPSC would do such a thing? I would guess that the following provides a hint (here)…

    The Consumer Product Safety Commission, stymied in attempts to get a manufacturer to foot the bill, persuaded several prominent retailers to voluntarily join the agency in a recall of Buckyballs, the super-magnet desk toys which have seriously damaged the intestines of children who swallow them.

    The CPSC sought the cooperation of retailers after the manufacturer of Buckyballs abruptly dissolved the company late last year. The agency tried unsuccessfully to get the former CEO of Buckyballs to pay for the recall, and has sued the corporate parent, Maxfield & Oberton, in an administrative complaint.

    To me, it sounds like the CPSC was actually being pretty damn vigilant, taking action to get a dangerous product off the market while the owner of that product apparently didn’t want to be bothered with aiding in that effort (and again, there had been a recall three years earlier, so Zucker should have been aware that there could still be a problem…and yes, I know we’re not really talking about a toy per se, but we’re still talking about something that is a danger to the public).

    And speaking of that, while we’re supposed to be preoccupied with shareholder return or possibly damaging this country’s entrepreneurial spirit or whatever, it might be a good idea to consider the damage these “Buckyballs” have caused (from here)…

    9 year old girl was playing with an antique/toy lamp that used buckyball magnets as the string to pull the light on, took some of the magnets and placed in her mouth, accidentally swallowed about 5-7 of them. Patient underwent multiple exposures to radiation via XRays, anesthesia, and an endoscopy in an attempt to retrieve them. Magnets were in small intestine by the time endoscopy was performed, required more XRays to follow magnets around the bowel. Fortunate for the child, they passed without incident.

    The doctor stated that her 2 years old patient swallow 62 rare earth magnets and suffered intestinal perforation. The doctor stated it’s believed that the incident happened while the child was playing with the magnets without supervision.

    The doctor stated that the 62 magnets were removed from his intestines and stomach. The child was currently admitted at the intensive care unit and will be in the hospital for approximately 5-7 days. The doctor stated that soon after his release from the hospital the child would have to follow up with the pediatric surgeon as well as with his regular pediatrician.

    Ingestion of 4 bucky ball magnets. Patient presented to the emergency department with abdominal pain and distension, decreased oral intake and vomiting. The magnets were removed from the colon endoscopically.

    Caller states that he is a physician and attended twelve year old boy who put thirty 5mm magnetic balls into his urethra and into his bladder.

    Physicians attempted to remove the Bucky balls using a cystoscope for greater than one hour but this was unsuccessful with only three being removed and a one and a half hour surgery was performed by cutting into his stomach to his bladder for removal of the remaining twenty seven balls.

    Child was in Yale New Haven Hospital overnight then returned home.

    Caller wanted to report this action so that CPSC would have knowledge of other ways that magnetic balls can be dangerous for young people.

    I actually found myself becoming enraged as I read about this, I have to admit; I know I’ve got a mile or two on the odometer, as the saying goes, but I can remember a time when we would say or do anything and spare no expense to protect our kids from danger of any kind, and the hell with how much somebody responsible for that danger has to pay or what punishment they have to undergo (I’ve got two words to say in response to the “punish(ing) entrepreneurship” crap, and they’re not Happy Birthday).

    And how utterly typical, by the way, for Nancy Nord to leap to Zucker’s defense.

    And that is because Nord was possibly the very worst head of the Consumer Products Safety Commission who has ever held the office (as I know I’ve said before, in addition to Iraq, 9/11, tilting the Supreme Court in favor of corporations into remote posterity and its other horrendous judicial appointments, Bushco’s worst legacy is the fact that they managed to install some of the very worst human beings imaginable as heads of federal agencies…see Norton, Gale; Kempthorne, Dirk; Chertoff, Michael; Brown, Michael; Doan, Lurita, Chao, Elaine, and Nord, along with too many others).

    As noted here

  • Nord blew off a hearing on defective toys because the hearing also would have included the testimony of child safety advocates (and Nord’s CPSC didn’t decide to test products until an incident was reported, and they negotiated every word of a recall alert with the manufacturer of a defective product).
  • Her CSPC was clearly understaffed and underfunded, where a “fox running the hen house” mentality ran rampant (oh, and she actually opposed a bill that would have increased the funding of her agency).
  • She also blew off pool safety alerts, and this tells you about Nord’s far-less-than-stellar response on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (or CPSIA) of 2008.
  • So go ahead and tell me how much the Consumer Products Safety Commission is supposedly guilty of regulatory overreach in the “Buckyballs” case, and how we’re unjustly attacking poor Craig Zucker, who apparently couldn’t be bothered to aid in the recent recall when it was found out just how dangerous his product really was.

    Actually, Zucker could do me a little favor if he wanted to (I’m sure he doesn’t), and I would take it easy on him from that point forward.

    He could actually pay a visit to the child who had to have his stomach cut open to his bladder to remove Zucker’s stinking product.


  • Our Corporate Media’s Tortuous “Trillion Dollar” Obama Tale

    August 26, 2009

    adf-cartoon-money-bag1
    This story tells us the following…

    WASHINGTON – In a chilling forecast, the White House is predicting a 10-year federal deficit of $9 trillion — more than the sum of all previous deficits since America’s founding. And it says by the next decade’s end the national debt will equal three-quarters of the entire U.S. economy.

    But before President Barack Obama can do much about it, he’ll have to weather recession aftershocks including unemployment that his advisers said Tuesday is still heading for 10 percent.

    (Funny, but I don’t recall hearing stories like this about 10-year budget projections when Obama’s predecessor took up space in An Oval Office.)

    But concerning the story, we find out the following near the end…

    At the same time, 10-year budget projections can be “wildly inaccurate,” said (former BCO official Stan) Collender, now a partner at Qorvis Communications. Collender noted that there will be five congressional elections over the next 10 years and any number of foreign and domestic challenges that will make actual deficit figures very different from the estimates.

    And of course, since we’re talking about the AP after all, God forbid that they omit the “Ooga Booga!” scare graf in the lede, right? And who cares whether it’s 100 percent factually correct.

    Yes, this is bad stuff, I know. But considering that Obama inherited a $1.3 trillion dollar deficit, only a teabaggin’ fool would believe he could turn that around in a mere matter of months.

    And of course, for good measure, former Bush economic advisor N. Gregory Mankiw chimes in here that it may be $14 trillion (past Mankiw ignominies on behalf of the former Bushco cabal are documented here).

    Also, I fail to understand yet again why Mankiw is considered some kind of an economic sage, since he surely should have known what would happen to the deficit as a result of Dubya’s Medicare Part D scam, noted by Brad DeLong here (and wasn’t it “Deadeye Dick” Cheney who told us here that “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter”).

    Fortunately, we have the reality-based commentary of Paul Krugman (here)…

    As I’ve pointed out, (the deficit is) bad, but it’s not horrific either by historical or international standards. On a comparable basis, federal debt hit 109 percent of GDP at the end of World War II, and hit a second peak of 49 percent at the end of the Reagan-Bush years. And a number of European countries have hit substantially higher debt levels without crisis.

    The only reason to fear these numbers is if you believe that our political system is broken, and that markets will soon come to see it that way. Then we could become a debt-intolerant country, and all bets are off. So it’s not really the debts per se, or even the economy; it’s the politics, stupid.

    Meanwhile, what everyone should be focused on is the sheer awfulness of the economic projections. OMB has unemployment still at 9.7% at the end of 2010; still at 8% at the end of 2011. These numbers cry out for a more aggressive economic policy. If that’s politically impossible, we’re really in terrible shape.

    “Stimulus Two,” anyone?


    “Doctor” Mankiw’s Public Plan Propaganda

    June 29, 2009

    Doctor_Cartoon_mban814l
    In yesterday’s New York Times, former Dubya Council of Economic Advisors Member N. Gregory Mankiw tells us the following (here)…

    IN the debate over health care reform, one issue looms large: whether to have a public option. Should all Americans have the opportunity to sign up for government-run health insurance?

    President Obama has made his own preferences clear. In a letter to Senators Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Max Baucus of Montana, the chairmen of two key Senate committees, he wrote: “I strongly believe that Americans should have the choice of a public health insurance option operating alongside private plans. This will give them a better range of choices, make the health care market more competitive, and keep insurance companies honest.”

    Even if one accepts the president’s broader goals of wider access to health care and cost containment, his economic logic regarding the public option is hard to follow. Consumer choice and honest competition are indeed the foundation of a successful market system, but they are usually achieved without a public provider. We don’t need government-run grocery stores or government-run gas stations to ensure that Americans can buy food and fuel at reasonable prices.

    And from here, Paul Krugman of the Times tells us…

    Both George Will and Greg Mankiw basically argue that we don’t need a government role because we can trust the market to work — hey, we do it for groceries, right?

    Um, economists have known for 45 years — ever since Kenneth Arrow’s seminal paper — that the standard competitive market model just doesn’t work for health care: adverse selection and moral hazard are so central to the enterprise that nobody, nobody expects free-market principles to be enough.

    Further, this somewhat tongue-in-cheek post from Matt Yglesias brings us this excerpt from a Q&A session President Obama held on the matter…

    QUESTION: Wouldn’t (a public option for health insurance) drive private insurance out of business?

    OBAMA: Why would it drive private insurance out of business? If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care; if they tell us that they’re offering a good deal, then why is it that the government, which they say can’t run anything, suddenly is going to drive them out of business? That’s not logical.

    Now, the — I think that there’s going to be some healthy debates in Congress about the shape that this takes. I think there can be some legitimate concerns on the part of private insurers that if any public plan is simply being subsidized by taxpayers endlessly that over time they can’t compete with the government just printing money, so there are going to be some I think legitimate debates to be had about how this private plan takes shape. But just conceptually, the notion that all these insurance companies who say they’re giving consumers the best possible deal, if they can’t compete against a public plan as one option, with consumers making the decision what’s the best deal, that defies logic, which is why I think you’ve seen in the polling data overwhelming support for a public plan.

    Indeed, as noted here, 72 percent of those polled favor a public option in the health care bill (with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius appearing to waffle a bit on that, though she did come out strongly in favor of the public option on a Fix Noise program, as noted in an Update to the post).

    And Mankiw has been critical previously of compiling information on life expectancy in this country, saying it’s “schlocky” to compare such numbers in the U.S. versus other countries here; Mankiw proposes instead that we compare the number of, say, hip replacements and cancer survivors (yes, that information is important I’ll admit, but specialized surgeries and treatments are just a part of what health care is about – to ignore the “big picture” here reflected in the life expectancy numbers is willful stupidity).

    Besides, the whole issue of “choice” in health care coverage, as far as I’m concerned, is a “red herring”; as more and more employers see that they’ll be better off by paying the tax in lieu of actually providing coverage for their employees, you’ll see them choose to not offer coverage, thus forcing their employees to choose the public plan anyway.

    And again, here is a Think Progress post from former Bush confidant Turd Blossom himself (and once more, I must ask this question) echoing much of what Mankiw wrote in his column yesterday. In the “Truth” statements, we learn (among other things) that, contrary to the talking points, private insurer participation in Medicare Part D has actually increased costs for plan participants instead of reducing them (as claimed by Rove).

    Finally, I leave with the following from Krugman, in response to both Mankiw and Will (the former at least has some degree of economic “cred,” but I’ll never know how anyone could presume that of Will)…

    To act all wide-eyed and innocent about these problems at this late date (concerning the lack of health insurance in this country for so many) is either remarkably ignorant or simply disingenuous.

    Equal parts of both would be my guess.


  • Top Posts & Pages

  • Advertisements