Friday Mashup (2/7/14)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The answer is, obviously, political.

    Obviously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Proof? Anywhere in sight? Hello??

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

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

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

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

  • Continuing, this tells us the following…

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

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

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

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

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

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

    As noted here from 2011…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    As noted here

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Advertisements

    Friday Mashup (8/10/12)

    August 10, 2012
  • I give you the following from Missouri Repug Sen. Roy Blunt yesterday (here)…

    In the midst of one of the worst droughts to hit our state in recent history, the Democrat leadership in the Senate made the incredibly poor decision to leave Washington for the August work period before taking up a critical disaster relief package that would have helped farmers, ranchers and families across Missouri — leaving our nation’s producers with greater uncertainty while trying to recover from extreme weather conditions.

    

Actually, in response, the following should be noted from here

    The bill (passed by the House) would restore four disaster aid programs, mostly for livestock producers and tree farmers, that expired last year. The estimated cost, $383 million, would be paid for by shaving some $630 million from two conservation programs. The disaster programs would be restored for the 2012 budget year.

    While there was little dispute over the difficult straits of the livestock industry, there was opposition to the bill from environmental groups disturbed by the cuts to the conservation programs, anti-tax groups who saw the bill as another government bailout and agriculture groups who have been pushing the House to vote on a five-year farm bill that, in addition to making fundamental changes in agriculture safety nets, would restore the disaster relief programs. The current long-term farm bill expires at the end of September.

    The top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, said that while he would vote for the disaster relief measure, “this bill is a sad substitute for what is really needed, a long-term farm policy.” He said that while the legislation would help cattle and sheep farmers, “dairy and specialty crop producers will be left hurting and there is no assistance for pork and poultry producers.”

    Another Agriculture Committee Democrat, Jim Costa of California, said he opposed the bill. “The drought relief package that we are voting on I believe is sadly more about giving the Republican leadership relief when they go back to their districts in August than helping our nation’s farmers, ranchers and dairymen.”

    The Senate in June passed, on a bipartisan vote, a five-year farm bill that revises crop subsidy programs, eliminating direct payments to farmers even when they don’t plant crops, and authorizes nearly $100 billion a year for subsidy, conservation and food stamp programs. The House Agriculture Committee last month approved similar legislation.

    But the House GOP leadership has resisted bringing the bill to the floor, leery of a potential rebellion from conservative lawmakers against spending levels in the bill — particularly the nearly $80 billion a year for the food stamp program, which provides food aid to some 46 million people. Some Democrats, in turn, oppose the House bill because it cuts 2 percent, or $1.6 billion a year, from the food stamp program.

    And cutting the food stamp program, which officially goes by the acronym SNAP, is particularly dumb for the following reason (here)…

    Food stamps are good policy because they have a multiplicative effect. In fact, it almost has double the impact. A USDA study finds that for “Every $5 in new SNAP benefits generates a total of $9.20 in community spending.”

    It’s not as if the program is being overused. From 1995 to 2000, enrollment in the program dropped precipitously without a corresponding drop in the rate of poverty. Even during the current recession, in which enrollment doubled, only around 2/3 of eligible recipients took advantage of the program. The Brookings Institution speculates that this is because former welfare recipient are seldom informed that they remain eligible for food stamps. Brookings estimates “in a typical month in 2001, 17.3 million people in 7.5 million households received food stamps at an annual cost of $20 billion.” While that is nothing to scoff at, the annual price tag is cheap for an effective social safety net. Particularly because it has a compelling societal purpose (preventing people from starving due to circumstances beyond their control) and is narrowly tailored to working people, usually with children.

    So to recap, those numbskulls in the House could have passed the Senate’s farm relief bill, which contained the disaster relief program and would have taken care of the problem – BUT NOOOOO!!! (heckuva job, teabaggers). Maybe Blunt ought to focus his ire at the “Republic” Party “leadership” in the House, then (fat chance, I know).

    And the mention of Roy Blunt is all the excuse I need to link to this video once more (WordPress won’t allow me to embed videos any longer unless I upgrade, which I don’t intent to do yet – and by the way, here is another less-than-shining Blunt moment, which was supported by our own Sen. Bob Casey…an explanation, Senator?).

  • Next, I hate to frighten anyone, but it looks like “Obamacare” will leave 30 million uninsured, according to this.

    By 2022, that is.

    Oh, and this person from clownhall.com criticizes Number 44 for originally saying that health care reform would cost a trillion dollars, though (according to Kate Pavlich) it will now supposedly cost 2.6 trillion over the next 10 years or so.

    Well, in response, this from Ezra Klein says that repeal would cost $1 trillion, and the law will deliver another trillion in savings over the next two decades (here).

    Pavlich also reports on the following…

    CBO and JCT [Joint Committee on Taxation] now estimate that the ACA, in comparison with prior law before the enactment of the ACA, will reduce the number of nonelderly people without health insurance coverage by 14 million in 2014 and by 29 million or 30 million in the latter part of the coming decade, leaving 30 million nonelderly residents uninsured by the end of the period,” the report said.

    “Before the Supreme Court’s decision, the latter number had been 27 million,” states the report.

    That’s actually a good point (shocking, I know); as noted here

    The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has updated its analysis of the Affordable Care Act in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the constitutionality of the individual mandate, but ruling that the federal government cannot withhold federal funds from states that refuse to expand their Medicaid programs.

    Since some states are refusing to open their Medicaid programs to their residents, the CBO concluded that costs to the federal government would drop by $84 billion over 11 years and 6 million fewer people will be covered by Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Half of that population will find insurance in the state-based health insurance exchanges, while the remaining 3 million will likely remain uninsured:

    So, because Hangin’ Judge JR and The Supremes decided not to let the feds manage their health care dollars properly, a net of (in all likelihood) 3 million people will remain uninsured (adding to the 27 million already cited).

    Also, from here

    Why (health care is) more expensive in the U.S.

    Prices, efficiency and insurance administration are the most important reasons U.S. spending is higher than spending in other countries. One study estimated that relative to other major industrialized nations, the U.S. pays 70 percent higher prices for drugs, has substantial excess capacity and low productivity in outpatient facilities, and spends six times more on insurance administration.

    …also…

    Medical malpractice is not a major driver of spending trends. Premiums for liability coverage and defensive medicine do contribute to health spending at any moment in time, but they are not a large factor nor are they a significant factor in the overall growth of health care spending.

    This link to Kaiser.edu provides more information on the cost controls in the Affordable Care Act (yes, this information is repetitive, but it’s necessary to try and offset the constant misinformation coming from the wingnutosphere on this, among other issues).

  • Finally, Pastor Gerson at the WaPo has some veep advice for Willard Mitt Romney (doesn’t everybody, or so it seems?) here

    A few thoughts on Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick: This kind of story is a perfect example of the limits of political reporting. Speculation is unavoidable, but the number of people with actual knowledge of the selection process is tiny — the candidate, his wife, a few close advisers. And their political interests lie in the maintenance of secrecy and the cultivation of suspense. Until the announcement, commentary on this subject is essentially content-free.

    But the trend of the last few weeks favors Chris Christie.

    Uh, Gerson? I hate to break the news to you, but the Philadelphia Inquirer already has the market cornered on all of the “let’s fluff the Garden State guv in the hope that he hits it big nationally and gives us some sort of bragging rights of a weird fashion” stories, as noted here.

    Also, Christie has been shockingly sane when it comes to the Global Now And Forever You Godless Democrat Party Kenyan Muslim Lovin’ Socialist War On Terra! Terra! Terra!, as noted here in his highly articulate and reasoned defense of judicial appointee Sohail Mohammed (again, sorry I can’t embed the video).

    In addition to all of this, a recent poll on the terms most commonly associated with Christie indicate that “bully” and “arrogant” are the most common associations with him (Maybe that’s something the Mittster wants? Can’t say). It should also be noted that Christie’s approval, for now, seems to be plateauing at about 54 percent (not that bad, but not enough to launch a Christie “juggernaut”).

    You know what? Romney seems to be having such a pickle when it comes to naming a veep that I think I should put forward a suggestion:

    How about this guy? After all (as noted here), he now has a 43 percent approval rating, he’s already done the job (albeit horribly), and he’s guaranteed to deliver all of those “values voters” who will sit on their hands on Election Day if Romney nominates, say, Tim Pawlenty or Rob Portman for the ticket instead (and you know he’s rested and might be looking for something to do).

    And there’s nothing to prevent a president from serving in the executive branch again, as long as he doesn’t come from the same state as the person at the top of the ticket.

    So whaddaya say, Willard Mitt? RomneyBush in 2012? Plutocracy today, plutocracy tomorrow, plutocracy forever!

    (No I’m not serious. But it would make the campaign more fun, wouldn’t it? :-))


  • Top Posts & Pages

  • Advertisements