Friday Mashup (9/20/13)

September 20, 2013

  • Stop the presses! It looks like the Repugs FINALLY have their “alternative” to the Affordable Care Act (here)…

    Conservatives representing nearly three-quarters of the House Republican conference unveiled their proposed replacement for President Obama’s healthcare law Wednesday, delivering on a long-delayed GOP promise.

    The bill from the Republican Study Committee would fully repeal the 2010 law and replace it with an expansion of health savings accounts, medical liability reform and the elimination of restrictions on purchasing insurance across state lines.

    Ummm – well, in response, I give you mcjoan here

    To be fair, they include all the other non-reform reforms they’ve been rehashing for years—tort reform, buying insurance across state lines, high-risk pools—all the things that don’t actually don’t do anything to address the real problem in our health care system: the increasing, systemic cost of health care. But they don’t include any provision for lower-income people to purchase affordable insurance. They don’t include any of the popular Obamacare provisions, like young adults being able to stay on their parents’ plan or an end to lifetime limits on what insurance will pay.

    So what they’ve really got is tax cuts, as usual. But at least this time they’ll be for the middle class, too. So, progress?

    Because, when it comes to tax cuts (noted by Joan), never forget the following (and here is more wingnut mythology on this subject).

  • Next, did you know that Mikey the Beloved favored reinstituting a 21st-century version of Glass-Steagall (the Depression-era legislation insuring federal bank deposits and separating commercial and investment banking) in 2011 (here)?

    Of course, since we’re now in 2013…

    More than two-and-a-half years later, Fitzpatrick, vice chairman of the Oversight Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee, won’t commit to putting Glass-Steagall back in place.

    The Depression-era act was part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, which set up the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to insure bank deposits while Glass-Steagall put up a firewall between commercial and investment banks.

    “I support building a wall to protect taxpayers and protect banking customers, I absolutely support that,” Fitzpatrick said.

    But first he wants the administration to implement The Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform Act, which includes the Volcker Rule, proposed by former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, to prohibit banks from risking institutional money in certain speculative investments.

    More Mikey flim-flam BS (and of course, I’m sure Mikey’s newfound ambivalence has not one thing to do with the fact that this legislation was first championed by Dem U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts)…

    As noted here and here, Mikey’s fellow Repug U.S. House brethren want to do away with both Dodd-Frank and the Volcker Rule. But of course, President Hopey Changey is supposed to ride to the rescue and save this country from Mikey and his same-party playmates in the House, right?

    And I’m sure Mikey would be cheering President Obama on every step of the way.

    Sure he would (and as a point of reference, this tells us who was right and who was wrong about repealing Glass-Steagall in 1999…it was a bipartisan failure – opposing it may have been Byron Dorgan’s finest moment).

    And in other financial news related to Congress, it looks like “Man Tan” Boehner and his caucus in the House wants to play chicken with our economy again over the debt ceiling here, even though, as noted here, he said on five different occasions that he wouldn’t do that.

    Oh, and did you know that Number 44 was responsible for this country’s decline in median income, among other downward numbers, according to something called CNS News here?

    Meanwhile, in the world of reality, it should be noted that median income in this country (for the rest of the 99 percent “rabble,” most definitely including your humble narrator) has been declining for at least the last 10 years (here – more on this is here).

  • Continuing, we have Repug U.S. Senator John Thune propagandizing as follows here

    South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune is calling for the Senate to end the Obama administration’s controversial green vehicle loan program in the wake of news that the Department of Energy is selling off the $168 million loan it gave to financially troubled Fisker Automotive.

    “The Obama administration has gotten into the business of picking winners and losers at a significant cost to taxpayers,” said Thune in a statement. “From Fisker and Vehicle Production Group, to the Chinese-owned A123, this administration should not be making questionable investments with the American people’s hard-earned money.”

    I wonder how many people know that the Fisker loan, as well as the loan program itself, stems from the ruinous reign of Obama’s predecessor (here)? And as noted here, Obama supposedly knew that Fisker was missing milestones in 2010, though neither of the docs mentioned in the AP story cited by Media Matters (and probably released to the AP by the Repugs) confirmed that.

    This is a bit of a rehash, I’ll admit; I already pointed out here, in a response to a WaPo column by that dim bulb Charles Lane, that it’s wrong to blame the Obama Administration for the Fisker loan (and besides, when you’re talking about federal loans to startups, some will pay off and some will go bust; what matters is the percentage of the former as opposed to the latter).

    And on the subject of “questionable” money decisions, this tells us that Thune, being a good little Repug from the Karl Rove/Grover Norquist template, sought to repeal the “death tax,” even though it mostly affected 0.1 percent of the households in this country. Also, Thune argued for more defense spending here, which, given how much we outspend the rest of the world, is beyond laughable.

  • Finally, this tells us the following…

    College freshmen that haven’t decided on a major may want to consider a degree in sales and marketing, medicine, health-care research and renewable energy to increase their odds of getting hired upon graduation.

    According to newly-released data from global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, jobs in these fields will be in high demand come 2018. What’s more, the firm finds that students who concentrate on math, science, engineering and technology will have the largest array of job options post-graduation.

    Concentrating on math, science and technology positions will help college grads secure work because these skills cover a vast array of positions in our jobs economy, says John Challenger, president of Challenger, Gray and Christmas.

    “When you get into fields that run across every type of company, it gives you such flexibility in your career,” Challenger says. “So many jobs today require people to have so much communication, through companies’ programs and policies, so that is very important as well.”

    I have no factual information to argue with this claims, but I would say that some context is missing here.

    Let’s start with this item, telling us that employers, five years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers that ushered in this era of economic calamity, are STILL pushing to increase H-1B visas for foreign, temporary workers. That’s one prong of the pitchfork, if you will, stabbing U.S. workers (both new and experienced) in the metaphorical “gut.”

    The other is offshoring, which really hasn’t been reined in much by Number 44 (here), partly because he has supported trade deals that make the problem worse (here), including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as noted here (an update is here).

    I know this isn’t an original observation, but it needs to be shouted from the mountaintops; we have a jobs crisis in this country!


    And with all due respect to our young men and women entering college (who, along with their parents, may benefit from reading this), whether or not you choose to major in a STEM-related curriculum or not won’t mean a damn thing until we start investing in this country once more and do everything we possibly can to resolve it.


  • Friday Mashup (11/09/12)

    November 9, 2012

  • Isn’t this particularly funny now (and nice touch to darken Obama’s face to make him look threatening …ZOMG SCARY BLACK MAN SCARY BLACK MAN SCARY BLACK MAN SCARY BLACK MAN!!!!).
  • Also, it’s kind of hard to truly get a handle on all of the wingnut caterwauling going on out there over Tuesday’s election results, but I’ll do what I can. Apart from Mikey the Beloved being returned to Washington in the name of “representing” PA-08 (not entirely surprising given the efforts of his PR apparatus including the Courier Times as well as all the GOP-devoted life forms in Bucks County), it was all good. Still, though, there definitely are some highlights (or lowlights, depending on your point of view, some of which I’ll present ably aided by Think Progress here – to me, all of these are funny, except the one by Glenn Beck; if the NRA didn’t basically own out government, he would be in jail for it).

    To begin, Fix Noise blamed Obama here for the stock ticker going down here the day after the election; actually, the Dow started off well on news of the Obama win, but declined because of typically bad Eurozone stuff and the fear of the U.S. House Repugs playing more infantile games with the debt ceiling.

    And really, Foxies, do you honestly want to compare the market under Number 44 versus its performance under Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History (here)?

  • Also, Armstrong Williams tells us here that Obama will prohibit Catholics from owning businesses, or something (seriously?). I’m sure that’s news to the Catholics who supported him, as noted here (Obama did well among non-white Catholics, as he did with all non-white groups).

    Besides, does Williams think we’ll forget that the two trail-blazing Catholic politicians in this country on the national level (former New York Governor Al Smith, as noted here, and JFK, as noted here), were both Democrats?

  • Oh, and in case you were wondering how those zany Teahadists were dealing with all of this, I give you the following from here…

    KENT, Ohio—Tea-party Republicans gathered to watch election returns here on Tuesday cringed when televisions flashed that the Republican Senate candidate had fallen to the incumbent Democrat.

    Sen. Sherrod Brown beat back a challenge by state treasurer Josh Mandel, a candidate with near-celebrity status among tea partiers here.

    The outcome “feels like people who work hard are really outnumbered here,” said JoAnn Schlue, a Republican voter who lives south of Kent, in northeast Ohio. A batch of early results showed Democrats retained control of the Senate.

    Shortly after, an “Oh, no,” and groans went through the room as Fox News called Ohio for President Barack Obama. “Why? Why?” several women at a table strewn with confetti moaned.

    For the tea party, Tuesday’s results tested the potency of a movement that helped reshape Washington two years ago. The party’s surge helped Republicans retake the House in 2010 and jump-started an anti-spending movement in Washington.

    According to exit polls Tuesday, 21% of respondents said they supported the tea-party movement, with 30% opposing it and 41% remaining neutral.

    So basically (now, as in 2010), we’re talking about a small, noisy minority. Which we already knew was the case.

    Continuing…

    “I will reconsider where we’re going and what we’re doing,” said Tom Zawistowski, executive director of the Portage County Tea Party and president of the Ohio Liberty Coalition, the umbrella for Ohio tea-party groups. “We thought when we won in 2010 that the people were speaking, but this tells us differently.”

    Gee, ya’ think?

    As Mr. Zawistowski spoke, the room drained of volunteers. In five minutes, it was empty, except for two women collecting black, white and blue centerpieces from the tables.

    “Is there a country I can move to?” asked Paul Freck of Twinsburg, cringing at returns from nationwide Senate races.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Yeah, wingnut; go ahead and move to Iran. Or Yemen. Or Somalia. You know, a place with the type of “government” you would appreciate.

    Oh, and by the way, Teahadists, thanks for giving us the U.S. Senate, as noted here.

  • Finally and perhaps inevitably, as part of their grieving process, you just knew the Repugs were going to find a way to invoke their idol, and the Foxies did so here…

    The Republican Party spent at least $1 billion on the 2012 presidential campaign and it still lost by a clear two percentage points in the national popular vote. There was no serious effort to reach out to women or Hispanics, nor to young Americans – a constituency who responded tremendously to Ronald Reagan back in 1980.

    Ronald Reagan have never have blamed (sic) these groups for not voting Republican. He would certainly never have written off 47 percent of Americans as a waste of time. He would never have dreamed of even thinking such a thought. Ronald Reagan loved and respected ordinary working Americans and they knew it. He always recognized clearly that arrogant, self-appointed elitists were political poison to the conservative movement and the GOP.

    Too funny – as noted from here (regarding Ronnie supposedly being a friend of the working man)…

    “If you’ll remember, there were 2 million who lost their jobs in the last six months of 1980, during the election…” (1/8/82)

    As I pointed out in the prior post (based on “Ronald Reagan’s Reign of Error,” by Mark Green and Gail MacColl) the number of people employed increased in the last six months of 1980, ending the year with 283,000 more people working than in July.

    “I realize there’s been an increase in unemployment. It’s been a continuation of an increase that got underway in the last several months of 1980.” (1/19/82)

    Still wrong. In the last six months of 1980, unemployment declined from 7.8% to 7.3%. It declined further to 7.2% in 1981, before beginning to climb to double-digit figures.

    “We have…in some of the hardest-hit states, extended the unemployment insurance. There’s nothing that strikes to my heart more than the unemployed…”(3/31/82)

    Then how come the Labor Department estimated that changes in the eligibility formula for the 1981 budget reduced extended benefits for 1.5 million jobless workers? Moreover, changes in the way a state became eligible for the extended benefit program had Michigan – the hardest hit of the states, then pretty much as now – thrown off that program for 13 weeks just prior to the President’s heartfelt speech.

    “Is it news that some fellow out in South Succotash somewhere has just been laid off?” (3/16/82)

    Enough said.

    And this is shades of Glenn Beck…

    “Anyone who wants to take a look at the writings of the members of the brain trust of the New Deal will find that President Roosevelt’s advisers admired the Fascist system.” (New York Times, 8/17/80)

    Some of the New Dealers made references to the efficiency of the Italian government. So did Winston Churchill. This does not add up to an admiration of fascism. Neither FDR nor the New Deal brain trust ever hinted at adopting that political program.

    …and from “Tear Down This Myth” by Will Bunch…

    …Jim Cramer, the popular, wild-eyed TV stock guru, and hardly a flaming liberal – was giving a speech at Bucknell University in which he traced the roots of the current mortgage crisis all the way back to the pro-business policies initiated nearly three decades earlier by America’s still popular – even beloved by some – fortieth president, the late Ronald Wilson Reagan. “Ever since the Reagan era,” Cramer told the students, “our nation has been regressing and repealing years and years’ worth of safety net and equal economic justice in the name of discrediting and dismantling the federal government’s missions to help solve our nation’s collective domestic woes.”

    And of course, Ronnie “loved and respected” working men and women so much that he was also responsible for this (Update 11/15/12: And this kicked off during his time in office also).

    But more to the point, I have some questions for conservatives; namely, don’t you realize that you can’t ultimately win with the tactics you’ve used since Reagan (at least that far back, and probably longer)? Don’t you see that your core demographic (elderly conservative white people) is slowly dying out, making you pretty much a minority-only party? Has it occurred to you that maybe, just maybe, the majority of this country is pretty much tired of your act?

    Don’t you realize that you have to change?

    Well, I got my answers to those questions today when I came across the following from clownhall.com:

    Sigh…

    And I just have one thing to say about this story (more “Mikey The Beloved” myth-making in Tuesday’s wake, on the only race we lost); any “Democrat” who actually voted for Fitzpatrick instead of Kathy Boockvar should, if they had a spec of integrity, get the hell out of our party and not let the door hit them as they leave.


  • Friday Mashup Part One (7/30/10)

    July 30, 2010

  • 1) The Philadelphia Inquirer, in a shockingly sensible editorial today, tells us the following (here)…

    Former governors can choose many career paths. Some of them become college presidents. Some go on the lecture circuit.

    And then there’s Tom Ridge, who is set to become a paid shill for the natural-gas drillers swarming his native state.

    The Marcellus Shale Coalition, which represents natural-gas companies, has been negotiating to hire Ridge’s lobbying firm. The industry wants the ex-governor’s help with a campaign to educate the public about the benefits of drilling.

    It’s unclear how much Ridge will be paid, but he doesn’t come cheap. The tiny impoverished nation of Albania, for example, reportedly paid Ridge nearly $500,000 per year to lobby for its membership in NATO.

    Ex-governors are free to enrich themselves however they choose. But there’s something obnoxious about a former governor talking up an industry that poses serious environmental risks, and has already spent millions on lobbying to forestall paying its fair share of state business taxes.

    Yep, I would tend to agree with that, especially since, as noted here about the Josh Fox film “Gasland” on this subject, the industry has already wrought havoc with the lives of many across this country by fouling their water supplies in the process of trying to extract natural gas.

    And I can just picture Ridge trying to implement a color-coded alert system like the one he put into place when he headed up the DHS under Bushco – my guess is that it would go something like this:

    LOW – Water OK for drinking, washing clothes, bathing, etc…enjoy it while you can.

    GUARDED – Slimy film? What slimy film?

    ELEVATED – Hey, let’s not forget that xylene and naphthalene can break down those pesky algae and mineral deposits, OK?

    HIGH – Now I know what happened to the “wastewater” from the EOG Resources blowout.

    SEVERE – Don’t stand too close when you turn on your tap, or else…well, ever see “Ghost Rider”?

    This further amplifies my concerns…the post by Amy Wilson tells us that Stone Energy (which, God help us, could be “the BP of natural gas extraction” as one commenter put it) was granted the first permitted, non-test well approved in the Delaware River Basin, a watershed that serves 15 million people, including the Greater Philadelphia area.

    As far as I’m concerned, we can’t talk seriously in this state about natural gas exploration under we do a hell of a lot more research into this subject than we already have (another fight in the ongoing battle against “disaster capitalism”).

  • 2) Turning to our media, it seems that Christiane Amanpour will debut as host of “This Week” this Sunday morning, replacing Jake Tapper and George Stephanopoulos.

    And as you might expect, Tucker Carlson’s crayon scribble page is already throwing stones at her (here)…

    Her selection for the post, however, has caused a surprisingly potent backlash. Putting aside issues such as the suitability of a foreign affairs reporter for a show on domestic politics and reports of behind-the scenes opposition to her appointment, most of the criticism has concentrated on Amanpour’s political views and her allegedly biased reporting. In one form or another, this kind of criticism has dogged Amanpour for a very long time.

    ZOMG! A well-traveled journalist interjecting informed commentary into news coverage, instead of reading from a teleprompter like a well-coiffed corporate media cipher (wonder how loud and long Edward R. Murrow would have laughed at characters like Carlson in response)?

    And I realize that a conservative screaming about bias is about as newsworthy as a rooster cackling at the sunrise, but still, let’s look at what Carlson is alleging here.

    So he based his charge on a New York Times story here on Amanpour, in which the profile quotes an anonymous “insider” who “has doubts about Amanpour’s commitment to objective journalism”…

    “I have winced at some of what she’s done, at what used to be called advocacy journalism,” (the source) said. “She was sitting in Belgrade when that marketplace massacre happened (in the ‘90s), and she went on the air to say that the Serbs had probably done it. There was no way she could have known that. She was assuming an omniscience which no journalist has.”

    So basically, the charge that Amanpour’s reporting is “biased,” which has thus caused “a surprisingly potent backlash,” is based on a single eyewitness account in a New York Times story.

    And by the way, did I note that the Times story was written in 1994?

    I’ll tell you what, Tucker: if Amanpour opens the show with film footage of George W. Bush morphing into Che Guevara, and the set for the show now contains a poster of Ward Churchill, and she professes her undying love for Al Gore, then talk to us about “bias,” OK?

    Otherwise, shut up and give her a chance.

  • Update 8/2/10: I see Carlson has company (here – h/t Atrios).

  • 3) And speaking of heroic women (I consider them to be that, anyway), Paul Krugman, in yet another spot-on column about why President Obama hasn’t done much to energize his “base” in spite of all of his accomplishments (and no, I don’t think it’s excusable for anyone to sit on his or her hands, as it were, in response – what Dante Atkins sez here in that vein), mentions Frances Perkins, who, as noted here…

    …championed many aspects of the New Deal, including the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Public Works Administration and its successor the Federal Works Agency, and the labor portion of the National Industrial Recovery Act. With The Social Security Act she established unemployment benefits, pensions for the many uncovered elderly Americans, and welfare for the poorest Americans. She pushed to reduce workplace accidents and helped craft laws against child labor. Through the Fair Labor Standards Act, she established the first minimum wage and overtime laws for American workers, and defined the standard 40-hour work week. She formed governmental policy for working with labor unions and helped to alleviate strikes by way of the United States Conciliation Service, Perkins resisted having American women be drafted to serve the military in World War II so that they could enter the civilian workforce in greatly expanded numbers.[2]

    There have been so many hard-won battles by progressives in the name of fair wages and working conditions as well as health and retirement benefits that it’s really difficult to list them all here, though, as you can see above, Perkins was involved in a lot of them.

    And I don’t know of any other secular figure in our public life who is recognized by an organized religion as Perkins is; Wikipedia tells us that she is honored with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) on May 13.


  • A Timely Recovery Lesson

    February 19, 2009

    fdr1a
    I don’t have much to add to this great McClatchy commentary by Steven Conn of the History News Service, so here it is…

    Since the economic crisis we’re now in is being compared to the Great Depression, the solutions being offered are being routinely compared to the New Deal. Republicans in particular have been quick to pronounce the New Deal a failure as a way of justifying their opposition to the new stimulus package and any other federal response to our new Great Depression.

    Congressman Steve Austria, R-Ohio, is so angry at the New Deal that he told an audience recently that Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal actually caused the Great Depression: quite an achievement given that the Great Depression was already three years deep by the time FDR was elected.

    Whatever you think of the Obama administration’s proposals, to declare the New Deal a failure gets the history fundamentally wrong. The legacy that FDR created proved remarkably successful and remarkably enduring.

    The New Deal operated at three levels: first, the programs established by the New Deal worked immediately to bring economic relief; second, the long-term changes the New Deal made to the structure of our economy brought the cycles of the economy under better control; and, finally, the New Deal re-shaped the social contract between our citizens and our government.

    We usually associate the New Deal with the programs it created to put people to work, such as the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps. Republicans hated these programs. They denounced the WPA as “We Putter Around.” The new Republican National Committee chairman, Michael Steele, recently parroted this accusation when he tried to explain that the government never creates jobs, just work.

    But the New Deal did provide jobs to hundreds of thousands of unemployed Americans, and while they “puttered” those workers managed to build tens of thousands of bridges, paved countless miles of roads, and planted 3 billion trees.

    It’s certainly true that those programs by themselves did not end the Great Depression, though they did ease the crisis for the families who gained an income because of the New Deal. So while these short-term programs operated, the New Deal created a set of long-term structural changes to the economy whose impact lasted well beyond the Great Depression.

    A few examples: Our bank deposits are protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and the integrity of stock market transactions is guaranteed, or is supposed to be, by the Securities and Exchange Commission, both created as part of the New Deal. Most important, with the passage of Social Security in 1935 future generations of American workers could look forward to a more secure old age.

    Few would argue that these New Deal initiatives have been anything but successful in the roughly 75 years since their creation. Former President George W. Bush wanted to privatize Social Security and do away with FDIC. Notice that Republicans aren’t talking about that any more.

    Finally, the New Deal altered the relationship between government and the economy. After World War II, Republicans and Democrats agreed that the government should take a more active role in regulating the economy, that it should use economic policy to promote the greatest good for the greatest number, and that it was obligated to provide a social safety net. They might quibble over the details, but there was a broad consensus around these points.

    The result of that consensus was the greatest expansion of the middle class the country has ever experienced. The growth of the economy from the 1940s through the 1960s was widely shared. Conversely, when the economy did go into recession during those decades, the supporting frameworks set up by the New Deal helped keep those downturns relatively short.

    In the early 1980s, under the leadership of Ronald Reagan, conservative Republicans set about dismantling this system. Regulations were gutted or not enforced, the social safety net was largely unraveled, and government tax policy shifted money from the middle class to the wealthiest. Since 1980 the result has been a nasty recession in the early 1990s, caused by the failure to regulate the savings and loan industry, and two devastating downturns, one in the early 1980s and the one we’re in right now.

    More than that, during the 30 years in which we’ve moved away from the New Deal, the middle class has stagnated. As wealth and assets have shifted to the top 10 percent, the middle class has survived largely on credit cards and home equity loans. Now millions have no way to pay that piper.

    The system the New Deal initiated kept us from experiencing a second Great Depression for nearly half a century. We are in our current mess in large measure because we dismantled that system. Republicans would have us be afraid of a new New Deal. But based on the track record of the original, a new New Deal is just what we need.

    And just to provide “balance,” allow me to present the wingnuttia viewpoint from Repug U.S. House rep Paul Ryan from Wisconsin (who, according to this, racked up about $50,000 on trips paid for by conservative policy groups, received a 0 rating from the Children’s Defense Fund Action Council, voted to eliminate the so-called “Paris Hilton tax,” and didn’t even bother to complete the 2004 National Political Awareness Test; so much for Ryan’s notion of transparency).

    Update: This should be the last word on the stimulus, but I’m sure it won’t be.

    Update 2/27/09: That Paul Ryan can sure “wow ’em,” can’t he?


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