Report Card for “Bri-Fi,” 2018

September 10, 2018

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As we know, the mid-term elections are fast approaching, so I thought now was as good a time as any to take a look at what our Wet Noodle 2.0 U.S. House Rep for PA-01 was up to (I’m referring to Brian Fitzpatrick of course).

To begin, it should be noted that Bri-Fi sought to burnish his “pro-life” bona fides by voting for a 20-week abortion ban (that and other votes are noted here – fortunately, as noted here, the ban was rejected by the U.S. Senate in January).

As noted here, though…

Nearly 99 percent of abortions occur before 21 weeks, but when they are needed later in pregnancy, it’s often in very complex circumstances. For example, severe fetal anomalies and serious risks to the woman’s health — the kind of situations where a woman and her doctor need every medical option available.

20-week bans are also highly unpopular throughout the country. 61% of all voters say abortion should be legal after 20 weeks. Plus, Democrats (78%), Republicans (62%), and Independents (71%) say this is the wrong issue for lawmakers to be spending time on.

Fitzpatrick also voted for a permanent ban on federal funds for abortions or health coverage that includes abortions (which is pointless because federal funding for abortions is already banned under the Hyde Amendment, named after a serial philanderer in Congress – more here).

When it comes to civil liberties, Fitzpatrick also voted to reauthorize warrantless spying under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA); Republicans managed to make it worse in the process according to some fourth amendment advocates (a group which should include everyone I realize).

As noted here

“Not only does the (reauthorized) bill say you have our blessing to collect communications that contain a target’s email address, it also endorses collecting communications that merely contain a reference to the target,” says Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security program at New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice. “So literally if you and I sent an email to each other that had the word ISIS in it, if you and I send an email that talks about ISIS, under this bill the government is authorized to collect it.” (Assuming ISIS is a group that the NSA is specifically targeting.)

The bill does impose a warrant requirement upon the FBI, but the way it’s written appears to weaken privacy protections rather than strengthen them, says Goitein. Under the legislation, FBI agents need a warrant to search the Section 702 database when a criminal investigation has already been opened, but not when national security is involved. That means the FBI can query the database on nothing more than a tip. “It incentivizes doing searches earlier and earlier, when it’s less and less justified,” says Goitein.

Fitzpatrick also voted along with Generalissimo Trump (which he has done about 83 percent of the time according to Nate Silver) in the matter of disciplining VA whistleblowers (here).

Also, as noted here

The U.S. Government Accountability Office’s report says VA whistleblowers are far more likely than their colleagues to face discipline or removal after reporting misconduct.

The number of VA workers fired is up under President Trump. But congressional Democrats and the VA’s union cite VA data showing that the vast majority of those fired in the first five months of 2018 were low-level food service, laundry and custodial staff the majority of whom are veterans. In that same period, only 15 out of 1,096 employees fired were supervisors.

This report comes as the VA’s own inspector general has publicly clashed recently with the VA leadership over access to documents and information about whistleblower adjudication.

A recent NPR investigation showed a pattern of often vicious whistleblower retaliation at the VA in central Alabama and sidelining of whistleblowers in Indiana.

There’s also a news report this week that the VA, under Acting Secretary Peter O’Rourke, is aggressively reassigning or forcing out VA staff members thought to be disloyal to President Trump and his agenda for the agency.

I realize that we’ve had VA issues with both Democratic and Republican presidents (probably the result of too many damn wars and too many of our heroes getting maimed in our country’s service and putting a strain on available resources), but I don’t know of anyone being forced out for being “disloyal” to President Obama.

And speaking of Number 44, Fitzpatrick repeatedly attacked Obama-era rules, including a rule blocking states from defunding Planned Parenthood (here) as well as another rule requiring employers to keep better record of workplace injuries (here). He also voted to overturn a rule prohibiting labor law violators from eligibility for federal contracts, allowing these companies to underpay their workers once more and evade safety regulations (here).

Fitzpatrick also voted to overturn an Obama rule banning drug testing jobless applying for unemployment. As noted here

As things have long stood, states only had the authority to institute drug tests for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families cash welfare program. Thus far, 13 states have instituted such regimes. But what their experience has proven year after year is that the tests, while costly to administer, turn up very few positive test results. Out of about 250,000 applicants and recipients among these states in 2016, just 369 tested positive; in four states, exactly zero people tested positive for illegal drug use. In the states with positive results, they ranged from a low of 0.07 percent of all applicants to a high of 2.14 percent, rates far below the nearly 10 percent drug use rate among the general population.

Meanwhile, states collectively spent $1.6 million on drug testing, on top of the nearly $2 million spent during the previous two years, despite the apparent ineffectiveness of these programs. That’s money that could instead be used to expand welfare benefits or even drug treatment programs.

Another vote from Fitzpatrick to overturn Internet privacy rules allowed internet service providers, or ISPs, to sell “financial and medical information. Social Security numbers, web browsing history, mobile app usage (and) even the content of your emails and online chats,” according to Sam Gustin of the web site Motherboard (vote is here).

Fitzpatrick also voted to end federal checks preventing more than 167,000 veterans deemed “mentally incompetent” from keeping or purchasing firearms (H.R. 1181). This is part and parcel of Bri-Fi’s utterly craven voting recording in near-total fealty to the NRA. As noted here:

  • In February 2017, Fitzpatrick voted to block the Social Security Administration from sharing information with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System on people with mental disorders in order to prevent them from purchasing firearms.
  • In November, 2017 Fitzpatrick voted twice to block the establishment of a select committee on gun violence prevention.
  • In December 2017, Fitzpatrick said he supports concealed carry reciprocity which would force states like Pennsylvania to defer to the concealed carry weapon laws of more pro-gun states like Texas.
  • In February 2018, Fitzpatrick voted to kill consideration of legislation on gun regulations.
  • In March 2018, Fitzpatrick voted to block three bills to close gun safety loopholes including the gun show, internet sale, and classified ad background check loopholes to prevent the sale of guns without a completed background check.
  • Fitzpatrick also voted to prohibit Department of Justice (DOJ) settlements requiring parties to donate monies to outside groups. This may seem a bit obscure, but as a result, the following should be noted from here

    The decision (to distribute settlement funds only to those directly harmed by wrongdoing) by the Justice Department throws into question an upcoming $12 million settlement against Harley-Davidson. As part of the settlement, the motorcycle manufacturer agreed to stop selling illegal after-market devices that increase the air pollution emitted by the motorcycles.

    Harley-Davidson had agreed to donate $3 million to a project to reduce air pollution, the Justice Department said in August. With Sessions’s decision Monday, that settlement’s fate is now up in the air.

    Also, Fitzpatrick voted to get rid of financial protection regulations, otherwise known as the Dodd-Frank Act, put in place to increase financial stability and consumer protections in the wake of the 2008 recession. As Gregg Gelzinis of the Center for American Progress notes here

    The CHOICE Act also allows banks of any size to opt out of a suite of crucial regulations—such as stress testing, living wills, risk-based capital requirements, liquidity requirements and more—if they maintain a leverage ratio of 10 percent. And it repeals the Volcker Rule’s ban on risky proprietary trading bets. A 10 percent leverage ratio is not nearly enough capital to justify such drastic deregulation.

    Furthermore, the CHOICE Act shreds the authority and resources of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, the council of financial regulators tasked with looking at risks across the financial system. FSOC would no longer have the power to address dangers that emerge outside of the traditional banking sector, putting taxpayers at risk. The bill also eliminates the Office of Financial Research, which provides data-driven research support to FSOC to help identify emerging risks.

    Tax Cuts_Bri-Fi3 (1)

    And speaking of money matters, Fitzpatrick also voted for his party’s so-called tax reform bill last December, which adds about $1 trillion to the deficit (which, of course, Republicans only care about when they’re trying to utterly gut the social safety net). The non-partisan Tax Policy Center found that after the tax plan has taken full effect in 2027, 80 percent of the benefits would go to the top 1 percent of earners in this country. When it comes to tax cuts, the top 1 percent will get an average cut of $1,022,120, while the middle 20 percent will get an average cut of $420, eviscerating any notion that the middle class are the key beneficiaries of the Republicans’ “Unified Framework for Fixing Our Broken Tax Code.”

    As noted here

    Should Trump-state Senate Democrats who voted against the tax bill, like Claire McCaskill (Missouri), Joe Manchin (West Virginia), Joe Donnelly (Indiana), and Jon Tester (Montana), really fear electoral backlash?

    Absolutely not, according to our analysis. In fact, they should highlight their opposition to Trump’s tax bill even in these red states.

    Most polling about the bill has been national, and it suggests broad unpopularity. Our analysis of exclusive national data to model state support for the tax bill suggests that Democrats have little to fear from the GOP law and should embrace progressive policies to mobilize opposition.

    Update 10/5/18: For the record, here is Fitzpatrick’s vote from December, and here is a recent vote to make the tax cuts for the rich permanent – heckuva job!

    And for anyone out there who may have bought into the “trickle down” lie still after all this time, I give you the following (here)…

    In the first six months after the Trump tax cuts were passed, corporate investment in equipment declined, America’s projected long-term deficit swelled by nearly $2 trillion, and wages for the vast majority of American workers fell on an inflation-adjusted basis.

    And there is no sign that reality will start comporting with the GOP’s predictions any time soon. As the Washington Post’s Heather Long notes, Morgan Stanley reported last month that America’s businesses are planning less future capital spending now than they were a few months ago. And that finding is bolstered by a recent survey of 393 businesses from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the audit firm RSM, which found that only 38 percent of those firms plan to increase investment over the next three years.

    Instead of channeling their profits into productive investment, S&P 500 companies are on pace to plow a record-setting $800 billion into buying back their own stocks. The point of such “stock buybacks” is to increase a firm’s share price (and thus, in many cases, the performance-based pay of its CEO) by reducing the supply of shares on the market.

    Oh, and for good measure, it should be noted that, according to Nate Silver, Fitzpatrick voted no to impeachment resolutions against Trump at least twice (I realize this isn’t shocking given that they’re in the same party, but it should be pointed out for the record).

    By himself, as far as I’m concerned, Brian Fitzpatrick hasn’t done nearly enough to merit another two years in the U.S. Congress. Worse, he’s part of a majority that has done nothing whatsoever to rein in a calamitously unqualified individual currently taking up space in An Oval Office.

    Given that, I see absolutely no alternative than to vote for Scott Wallace for Congress from PA-01 on November 6th.

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    The Repugs’ Deadly Game Of “Hidin’ Zika” (Updates)

    August 4, 2016

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    Huffpo tells us the following from here

    WASHINGTON ― Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell delivered a letter to key lawmakers on Wednesday that explained exactly how their underfunded response to the Zika virus is screwing Americans over.

    President Barack Obama asked Congress for $1.9 billion in February to deal with the impending outbreak of Zika in the United States. Congress finally began working on the request in May, with the Senate passing a bipartisan compromise that was about $800 million short.

    The bill got tanked in a partisan squabble last month after Republicans decided to add in contraception restrictions, a pro-Confederate flag provision, extra cuts to Obamacare, and a measure to exempt pesticides from the Clean Water Act, even though those pesticides don’t target Zika-carrying mosquitoes.

    They then departed for a seven-week break while sending a sternly worded letter to Obama, saying he should take aggressive action to battle Zika using the $589 million the administration transferred from other programs, taken primarily from the ongoing Ebola response. GOP lawmakers have also complained recently that the money is not being spent quickly enough, with nearly two-thirds still available.

    Wednesday, Burwell detailed how that money is being spent, and how key programs actually will run dry this month if Congress does not act.

    “Now that the United States is in the height of mosquito season and with the progress in developing a Zika vaccine, the need for additional resources is critical,” she wrote to the top members of the appropriations committees in the House and Senate. “Without additional funding as requested in the President’s request for an emergency supplemental, our nation’s ability to effectively respond to Zika will be impaired.”

    Yeah, I think that about says it. And because of political nonsense from the “party of Lincoln” (here)…

    Another apparently locally grown Zika virus case has been added to the list in Florida, state health officials said Tuesday, raising the number to 15 — all of them in the Miami area.

    “Active transmission” of the mosquito-borne virus, which causes microcephaly and other birth defects, is still going on in a 1-square-mile area of the Wynwood arts neighborhood north of downtown Miami, said health officials, who advised pregnant women to stay away.

    Overall, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed 351 Zika cases in Florida, 336 of them involving people who traveled to the state from elsewhere, the state Health Department said.

    “We’re not seeing the number of mosquitoes come down as rapidly as we would have liked,” Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, told The Associated Press.

    The difficulty controlling the mosquitoes is “a reflection of the fact that, in this country, we really dismantled the mosquito monitoring and control infrastructure over the past few decades,” Frieden said.

    “We have blind spots where we don’t know where the mosquito populations are and what the susceptibility is to different insecticides,” he said.

    And how exactly did we get to this point? I think this post from the American Mosquito Control Association (yes, there actually is such a group, luckily for us) from some years ago clarifies things a bit…

    A recent (2013) AMCA nationwide survey found for 22 out of 25 (88%) state public health departments that responded that the current level of (Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC) grants from the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Division of Vector-Borne Diseases (DVBD)) funding compared to peak funding several years ago is no longer adequate to support their state’s non-human arbovirus testing efforts in the lab, significantly jeopardizing their state’s ability to cope with arbovirus diseases. Furthermore, this funding shortfall cannot support arbovirus surveillance-and-monitoring activities in the field, where 100% of all respondents felt such information was critical for conducting mosquito control operations.

    Any economic savings provided by eliminating this funding will be insignificant compared to the potential healthcare costs to be incurred and, more importantly, the loss of life – both human and animal – if populations of mosquitoes that spread WNV and other exotic diseases are not monitored and suppressed in a timely manner.

    I would tend to agree (by the way, the post was written in response to the outbreak of West Nile Virus, though you can just as easily apply it to Zika also – basically, we’ve been behind the proverbial curve on this for a little while as far as I’m concerned).

    This is part and parcel of underfunding the CDC by congressional Republicans, as noted here; their cheapskate approach to funding for disease prevention helped give rise to an Ebola crisis in West Africa, as well as “the serious emerging viral infections in the US like Enterovirus-D68, chikungunya and dengue, as well as overseas MERS and bird flus, and natural disasters,” as documented in the 2014 post.

    To return to Zika, though, for a minute, I just want to emphasize that, for the sake of trying to rob money for women’s contraception through (wait for it…) Planned Parenthood, ignore a bipartisan resolution banning Confederate flrags at U.S. cemeteries, and exempt pesticides from the Clean Water Act, we are currently in a position where at least one area of this country has to be quarantined from a Zika outbreak, and more are likely to follow.

    And by the way, I’ve wondered how all of the “pro-lifers” out there are reacting to Zika. With that in mind, Dana Milbank of the WaPo penned this recent column in which he told us the following (Florida Repug U.S. House Rep Vern Buchanan stands out as a commendable exception, though)…

    ..there’s quiet from the antiabortion lobby. Groups I checked with haven’t taken a position on the Zika response, other than a few that have said laws against abortion should not be loosened in Latin American countries because of the virus.

    National Right to Life published an argument in March questioning whether Zika causes birth defects and citing a study that said only 1 percent of babies born to mothers with the infection have the brain condition called microcephaly. “Abortion advocates would have had us believe the risk of microcephaly was much higher,” it said.

    Typical for those disgusting hypocrites (of course, as noted here, all the evidence they would need about that already existed “south of the border”)…

    But Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a Post editorial board meeting Tuesday that “I can almost guarantee you” that the rate of birth defects is higher than 1 percent; another study puts it as high as 29 percent.

    You know what? I think it’s time for a little “shock therapy” for those NRL cretins; get a load of this (here)…

    At least 12 babies in the United States have already been born with the heartbreaking brain damage caused by the Zika virus. And with that number expected to multiply, public health and pediatric specialists are scrambling as they have rarely done to prepare for the lifelong implications of each case.

    For children born with the worst of the brain defects caused by Zika, there will never be any miracle stories. No “the doctors said she would never walk, but … ” scenarios. These children will never walk. Never talk. Never laugh. Never play with a toy. Never feed themselves. Never even know that they are loved. They will only cry, and never be comforted.

    They heard ophthalmologist Camila Ventura of Brazil, the epicenter of Zika in the Americas, describe how extremely irritable, even inconsolable, the newborns with microcephaly are.

    “The babies cannot stop crying,” she said.

    The parents of these children face not only day after day after day of bleak despair, but also crushing financial burdens.

    Many of Zika’s littlest victims, diagnosed with microcephaly and other serious birth defects that might not immediately be apparent, could require care estimated at more than $10 million through adulthood.

    “National Right to Life,” huh? Whose “life,” I wonder?

    At least one voice of sanity on this is here (kudos to Dem VP Nominee Tim Kaine).

    And by the way, if this isn’t a reason to vote out the Republicans in Congress responsible for this funding mess, among others (and elect Democrats like this guy), then I don’t know what is.

    Update: Do you think this is “yuge”? I do.

    Update 1 8/5/16: This amplifies some of what I’ve pointed out, but it definitely bears repeating.

    Update 2 8/5/16: And of course, Heaven forbid that Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao would pull his thumb out and do something (here).

    Update 8/6/16: And I had a feeling that this wasn’t helping one bit either.

    Update 8/7/16: This garbage must play well in “the Sunshine State” because, last I checked, Rubio was still leading in the polls (more here).

    Update 8/9/16: And I would say that this is the loudest voice yet.

    Update 8/11/12: At least that “Kenyan Muslim Socialist” gets it (here – h/t Daily Kos).


    Friday Mashup (7/25/14)

    July 25, 2014
  • Lots to get to here…

    Things have been a bit quiet on the “gun front” lately (good news because it means fewer people than normal are dying as a result – hopefully it will stay that way), though this item recently appeared, including the following…

    Beretta U.S.A. announced Tuesday that company concerns over a strict gun-control law enacted in Maryland last year have made it necessary to move its weapons making out of the state to Tennessee.

    The well-known gun maker said it will move to a new production facility it is building in the Nashville suburb of Gallatin that is set to open in mid-2015.

    Beretta general manager Jeff Cooper said that a sweeping gun-control measure that was passed last year initially contained provisions that would have prohibited the Italian gun maker from being able to produce, store or even import into Maryland the products that the company sells around the world. While the legislation was changed to remove some of those provisions, Cooper said the possibility that such restrictions could be reinstated left the company worried about maintaining a firearm-making factory in Maryland.

    So Beretta decided to move their operations from Maryland to Tennessee supposedly because of those gol-darned liberals and their danged gun laws, even though the Maryland legislation was changed to try and mollify Beretta.

    However, I think we need to note something else (from a related story here)…

    Beretta said they will not begin the transition process of moving production to Gallatin until sometime in 2015. The company added it had no plans to relocate its office, administrative or executive support functions from the Maryland facility.

    Really? I wonder why not? I mean, if you’re gonna “talk the talk” about moving all the jobs, then why not actually, y’know, move all of the jobs.

    Could it possibly be because, as noted here, the state minimum wage for Maryland is $7.25 an hour, but for Tennessee…well, there is no state minimum wage?

    Maybe Tennessee deserves Beretta, and I don’t mean that as a compliment; here, the reviewer of Beretta’s Cx4 Storm, which apparently can substitute as a semiautomatic pistol, concluded that “it is basically a weapon designed to kill and maim people in a quick, efficient manner…In the hands of even an unskilled shooter, it can still accomplish that purpose quite effectively.”

    Terrific.

  • Next, someone named Abby Johnson (must…resist…Blazing Saddles…snark) at The Daily Tucker tells us the following here

    Johnson, who left the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas in 2010, released a budget statement for the 2010 fiscal year she said shows that the clinic was expected to perform at least 1,135 abortions that year.

    Johnson’s group, And Then There Were None, released a photograph a few weeks ago of a Colorado clinic receiving an award for having performed more abortions in the first half of the 2013 fiscal year than they had in the second half of the 2012 fiscal year.

    Even though, as noted here according to the law, no federal funds are allowed to be used for abortions (so basically, if there had been an audit, that Planned Parenthood office would have lost its federal funding).

    I find Johnson’s claims hard to believe, particularly when you consider the following (here)…

    (Johnson), a former Planned Parenthood employee turned antiabortion activist, gave a workshop at Heartbeat International’s 2012 conference titled “Competing With the Abortion Industry.” According to audio of the event, Johnson told participants, ”We want to look professional. We want to look businesslike. And yeah, we do kind of want to look medical.” She discouraged them from foregrounding their religious affiliation, so as to better trick women: “We want to appear neutral on the outside. The best call, the best client you ever get is one that thinks they’re walking into an abortion clinic. Those are the best clients that could ever walk in your door or call your center, the ones that think you provide abortions.”

    Before she engages in any more deception on matters related to women’s health care, I honestly think Johnson ought to get straight on the whole “not bearing false witness” thing in accordance with the faith she claims she’s trying to practice. Particularly since, despite her best efforts and those of her fellow wingnuts, Roe v. Wade still happens to be the law of the land.

  • Further, Rich Lowry blames Number 44 as follows (here)…

    According to the Los Angeles Times, the number of immigrants younger than 18 who were deported or turned away from ports of entry declined from 8,143 in 2008 to 1,669 last year. There were 95 minors deported from the entire interior of the country last year.

    Of course, far be it for Lowry to note the effects of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 which, as noted below, was passed and signed into law by Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History (here).

    In 2008, in the lame-duck session of a presidential year when the party’s president and nominee were both immigration reformers, Congress easily passed the (Act – Wilberforce was a British parliamentarian who led the slavery abolition movement). No one in the House or Senate opposed a law intended to rescue children from exploitative pimps—legislation that allowed young people to attain “special immigrant juvenile status.” The Obama administration is citing this as the reason why deportations have plunged, and asked Congress to fix it.

    Oh yeah, like that will happen with Boehner and company, who never imagined a “scandal” they didn’t like concerning this president.

    Oh, and I know I’m going out of order a bit, but Lowry inflicts the following also…

    The first rule in a crisis for any executive is put on his windbreaker and boots and get out on the ground. President George W. Bush didn’t do it soon enough after Hurricane Katrina and, politically, could never make up for it, no matter how many times he visited New Orleans subsequently. Obama’s bizarre resistance to visiting the border on his fundraising swing out West fueled talk of the influx as Obama’s “Katrina moment.”

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!

    To begin, I don’t know if it matters one bit whether or not President Obama goes to the border; as noted here, he described such a move as “cheap theater,” which I think is absolutely correct. Besides, as noted here, many of Obama’s most vocal critics on this haven’t been to the border either, including “Man Tan” Boehner, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), and Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wy) and the thoroughly odious Ron Johnson (R-WI). You can also lump “Calgary” Cruz into the mix, along with Reps “Smokey Joe” Barton and Jeb Hensarling, all of Texas, which is particularly ridiculous (more on Hensarling shortly).

    Also, I really think the wingnuts should give the “Obama/Katrina” thing a rest, particularly when you consider the following from here; I believe the only tragedies and/or foibles that our corporate media haven’t declared to be an “Obama/Katrina” moment would be the Chicago Fire, the Kennedy assassination (either one), the Challenger shuttle disaster, and the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (you can Google it, the event and/or the song – apparently, everything else is fair game).

  • Continuing (and speaking of Hensarling), I give you the following from here (where he and his pals try out a lot of new right-wing talking points about Dodd-Frank)…

    Thanks to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Qualified Mortgage rule, Dodd-Frank makes it harder for low and moderate-income Americans to buy a home. According to a Federal Reserve study, roughly one third of African-American and Hispanic borrowers would not be able to obtain a mortgage based solely on the CFPB’s debt-to-income requirements.

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

    Dodd-Frank tried to (put in place) new consumer protection rules requiring banks to verify a borrower’s ability to repay a loan before extending it. At Wednesday’s hearing, much of the GOP criticism focused on false allegations about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Qualified Mortgage regulation, or QM.

    “You don’t protect consumers by taking away or limiting products, like the CFPB does through the Qualified Mortgage rule,” Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) said.

    The QM rule doesn’t ban anything. It’s a basic test of whether a loan is designed to line a lender’s pockets by ripping off a borrower. And it gives banks special perks for meeting the CFPB’s high-quality loan standards, protecting them from predatory lending lawsuits. In practice, that means limiting the amount lenders charge in points and fees to 3 percent of the loan value, banning balloon loans with a big lump sum due at the end of the mortgage…

    Hensarling was particularly vocal about the Dodd-Frank law’s effect on minority borrowers, claiming a Federal Reserve study shows that “about one-third of blacks and Hispanics would not be able to obtain a mortgage,” based on the rule’s requirement that monthly borrower debts not exceed 43 percent of monthly income.

    That’s true, according to the Fed’s 2010 data. It’s also generally considered bad personal finance to have that much of your income tied up with debt payments.

    Also, this tells us more about the CFPB’s mortgage rules modifications. And as far as debt-to-income requirements, I give you the following from here

    Lenders will have to verify borrowers’ income, assets and debt before signing them up for home loans. Such common-sense practices anchored the mortgage market for decades but were cast aside in the lead-up to the meltdown as banks relaxed standards to churn out more lucrative loans. The result was millions of homeowners who were unable to manage their mortgages once the market tanked.

    And…

    In response, the CFPB has created a category of home loans that offer lenders broad legal protections against borrower lawsuits, provided they adhere to certain criteria. These “qualified mortgages” limit upfront fees and bar risky features such as no-interest periods that can leave homeowners stuck with unsustainable loans.

    Hensarling also propagandizes as follows…

    Dodd-Frank’s Volcker rule makes U.S. capital markets less competitive against other international financial centers. It’s more expensive for U.S. companies to raise working capital and harder for Americans saving for retirement or their children’s college educations.

    In response, this tells us more about the supposedly dreaded “Volcker rule”…

    A federal regulation that prohibits banks from conducting certain investment activities with their own accounts, and limits their ownership of and relationship with hedge funds and private equity funds, also called covered funds. The Volcker Rule’s purpose is to prevent banks from making certain types of speculative investments that contributed to the 2008 financial crisis.

    Here is more from Hensarling…

    Dodd-Frank created the Financial Stability Oversight Council and gave it the power to designate certain large businesses as “Systemically Important Financial Institutions” (SIFIs). Now insurance companies that pose no discernible systemic risk to the economy are being subjected to unnecessary regulation that dries up capital for infrastructure projects, and harms investors and policy-holders.

    In response (here)…

    AIG and GE Capital chose not to fight the (Financial Stability Oversight Council’s) efforts to bring them under tougher regulatory scrutiny (by declaring them SIFIs).

    “AIG did not contest this designation and welcomes it,” the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

    Russell Wilkerson, a spokesman for GE Capital, which is the financial services arm of General Electric, said the company had been prepared for the council’s decision.

    “We have strong capital and liquidity positions, and we are already supervised by the Fed,” he said.

    The oversight group does not name companies under consideration for this designation until it makes a final decision, but AIG and GE Capital had previously disclosed that the council had proposed declaring them systemically risky.

    Prudential Financial had also disclosed that the council had proposed designating it as systemically risky, but the company last week said it would contest the proposal by asking for a hearing before the regulatory group.

    I think we’ve figured out at this point that Hensarling and his pals are doing everything they can to try and scuttle financial reform, which is perfectly in lack of character for a guy who believes in fairy tales about how those alleged deadbeats with credit card balances are hurting the “bottom line” of the lending institutions – actually, as the poster notes here, the opposite is true.

    Hensarling, by the way, is chairman of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee. And do you know who else serves on that committee?


    Why, our own Mikey the Beloved, of course – with that in mind, I give you this from the Kevin Strouse campaign (running to unseat Mikey in PA-08)…

    Four Years After Authorization of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Congressman Fitzpatrick Continues to Advocate for Banks, the Ultra-Wealthy and Special Interests Instead of People

    Kevin Strouse exposes Congressman Fitzpatrick’s self-interested votes to protect the big banks and special interests that support his campaign, putting 8th district consumers at risk.

    Bristol, PA – Yesterday (7/21) marked the fourth anniversary of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act becoming law. The act, which was passed in response to the financial crisis caused by irresponsible banks and self-interested politicians, created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to enforce laws and ensure that the financial industry works for all Americans – not just big banks. Democratic Congressional candidate Kevin Strouse called out Congressman Fitzpatrick for his relentless attempts to weaken this law which was designed to regulate many of the big banks and payday lenders who donate large sums to Fitzpatrick’s re-election campaigns.

    In 2011 Congressman Fitzpatrick voted to eliminate the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. On yet another occasion, he voted in 2012 to expand loopholes and exemptions covering derivatives.

    Strouse commented, “It’s disappointing that my opponent has taken every opportunity he could to vote to weaken an agency whose sole mission is to protect consumers. Unfortunately, Congressman Fitzpatrick has proven himself to be another self-interested Washington insider who will tirelessly defend the big banks and special interests that he’s supposed to regulate as a member of the House Financial Services Committee, and then willingly turn his back on his middle class constituents.”

    Despite Representative Fitzpatrick’s self-interested votes, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has made a real difference in peoples’ lives. To date, more than 15 million consumers have received $4.6 Billion in relief and refunds due to actions taken by the CFPB.

    Strouse continued, “The people of Bucks and Montgomery counties are simply asking for a fair shot to experience economic opportunity that works for everyone in this country, and voters this fall will have a choice between electing a representative who will work to support middle-class families in the 8th District, or remaining left behind by Congressman Fitzpatrick and the dysfunctional Republican Congress.”

    BACKGROUND:

    Fitzpatrick voted to limit the effectiveness of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). [2011, HR 1315, Vote #261]

    • The legislation would limit the effectiveness of the CFPB, a bureau created by the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory bill, which “has the authority to regulate financial markets in ways meant to improve consumer protection”. The CFPB, which had a single director, would instead have a five-member board. This legislation would also change the two-thirds majority vote by the Financial Stability Oversight Council to override a CFPB decision to just a simple majority. [The Hill, 7/21/11; Washington Post, 7/22/11]
    • Philadelphia Inquirer: Fitzpatrick voted to “Muzzle” the CFPB… [Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/27/11].

    Fitzpatrick Voted to Expand Loopholes, Exemptions in Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Bill [HR 3336, Vote #180, 4/25/12]

    • In 2012, Fitzpatrick voted to expand loopholes and exemptions covering derivatives in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law. According to CQ, the bill “would exempt certain financial institutions regulated by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) from classification as swap dealers under Dodd-Frank. The law included a similar exemption for depository institutions and supporters say the change would allow farm credit institutions that are not designated as depository institutions to offer swaps to protect customer loans from sudden interest rate fluctuations.” [CQ, 4/25/12]

    15 million consumers will receive $4.6 billion in relief due to actions taken by the CFPB. Source here.

    ###

    Kevin Strouse is a former Army Ranger, CIA counterterrorism analyst, and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who lives in Middletown, Pa., with his wife, Amy, and two young children, Walter and Charlotte. He is currently Program Director of Teach2Serve, a non-profit that teaches social entrepreneurship to local high school students. He earned his BA from Columbia University and a Masters in Security Studies from Georgetown University, graduating with honors.

    To support Kevin, click here.

    Ryan Good Deed
    Also related to financial stuff, it looks like none other than Mr.-Puppy-Dog-Eyes-With-The-Shiv is back with some supposedly glorious plan to lift everyone out of poverty with not one dime of new spending or (Heaven forbid!) a revenue increase of any type whatsoever, as his mouthpiece Reihan Salam tells us here

    …Loved by the right and loathed by the left, Ryan has been the architect of the most consequential Republican domestic policy initiatives of the Obama era. In spirit if not in name, Ryan spent much of President Obama’s first term as the leader of the opposition, rallying Republicans against Obamacare and in favor of long-term spending reductions. His controversial calls for entitlement and tax reform as chairman of the House Budget Committee were singled out by the president for over-the-top denunciation. In the spring of 2012, well before Ryan was named the Republican vice-presidential nominee, the president went so far as to characterize the Wisconsin congressman’s budget proposal as “thinly-veiled Social Darwinism.”

    Yeah, well, that’s probably because it is “thinly veiled social Darwinism” (here).

    So what exactly is Ryan’s supposedly wonderful new plan? Why, to consolidate stuff like SNAP and Section 8 housing funds into a block grant for states, where there is NO POSSIBLE WAY that the funds will EVER be used inappropriately once federal oversight is removed. And of course, there will be NO PROBLEM with people who need housing funds but not food assistance losing out because the latter need will be over allocated by a state instead of the former one. Am I right (more here)?

    Somehow I have a feeling that, if Hensarling, Mikey and their buddies were serious about balancing the books, they would not have cut the IRS enforcement budget by 25 percent (here). They also would not have recently passed “a whopping $287 billion business tax cut measure with no effort to pay for or offset that amount” (here).

    And as former Reaganite Bruce Bartlett points out here

    As far as tax reform is concerned, the problem for Republicans is they don’t actually believe in the “reform” part of tax reform. That would be the part that eliminates unjustified tax cuts and loopholes to pay for statutory rate reductions. In their heart of hearts, Republicans only believe in tax cuts, especially for big corporations and the ultra-wealthy. They, like the right wing novelist Ayn Rand, believe that only the wealthy create wealth. Average workers are greedy parasites, especially when they have the temerity to join a union and, like Oliver Twist, ask for “more.” The Republican establishment pulled out all the stops recently to kill the unionization of an auto plant in Tennessee lest workers get too uppity.

    Hmm, Tennessee huh? The same state where Beretta decided to move the majority of its workforce, as noted earlier. I guess it’s just a coincidence that Tennessee is also, apparently, virulently anti-union, huh?

    I know better minds than mine have said this before, as I have also, but it needs to be repeated again. The Party of Reagan wants to take from the “have less” crowd and give to the “have more” crowd any way possible, and they don’t give a damn about balancing the budget or growing the economy. When it comes to their supposed fiscal stewardship, here endeth the lesson.

  • Finally, I don’t have anything particularly brilliant to say about this item, but I’m compelled to speak up anyway…

    Many Pennsylvania drivers have long-awaited the increasing of the maximum speed limit. That day is coming next week.

    The speed limit will be raised to 70 mph on a 100-mile stretch of toll road in the south-central part of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission announced Friday.

    The 70 mph zone will be on the Turnpike mainline (Interstate 76) between the Blue Mountain Interchange (Exit 201) and the Morgantown Interchange (Exit 298) starting Wednesday.

    Turnpike officials are planning a news conference for next week to detail future speed-limit changes across the Turnpike’s 550-mile system.

    “Our studies have shown that the design of our system in this area can safely accommodate the higher speed limit,” Pa. Turnpike CEO Mark Compton said in a news release.

    “But motorists must remember that it is their responsibly to drive safely and sensibly according to the traffic and weather conditions — especially when the pavement is slick from precipitation or when visibility is limited.”

    State police say they’re planning strict enforcement of the 70 mph limit.

    I drive the PA Turnpike a lot, but I must confess that this isn’t really the best news as far as I’m concerned. Unless this is the proverbial Trojan Horse in the sense that the state police are dressing this up as a very attractive carrot, when in reality they plan to turn it into a cash-raising stick via higher fines for speeding offenses, which is another story.

    I drive the stretch from Downingtown to Trevose/Bensalem, Pa. a lot (don’t ask me the exit numbers; I committed the old ones to memory and can’t remember the news ones), and though there has been a bit of a break with traffic volume for the summer vacations, I envision this stretch of road turning into even more of a demolition derby when most of the drivers come back if a speed limit of 70 is ever put into place.

    Yes, I’m frequently around 70 myself, and mainly I’m just keeping up with traffic flow. But in time, the “unofficial” speed will tick upward, probably closer to 80. And again, on that stretch of the turnpike, that is too damn fast of a speed to maintain, particularly when you consider this (first bullet). I am also old enough to recall when discussions about raising the speed limit also discussed whether or not that led to energy savings; no sign of that here that I can tell.

    My motivation behind saying this is simple; I’m trying to keep people alive, including myself. And if that means I’m forced to drive, say, 5 to 10 miles slower on my route than I would if I were approaching, say, Harrisburg, then that’s a small price to pay as far as I’m concerned.

    Oh, and something else – as long as I’m discussing the PA Turnpike, can we please speed it up a bit with building the I-95 connector near Bristol? Also, replacing the rest stop where the Street Road EZ Pass ramp is now located would be a good idea too. Can you please make it so?

    Hugs…


  • Thursday Mashup (10/10/13)

    October 10, 2013
  • Cal Thomas of Fix Noise decided to weigh in recently on the supposed virtues of five different Republican governors across this country (here); I thought it best to offer excerpts of his commentary followed by my response…

    (Oh, and never forget that, according to the Foxies, it’s not a “shut down,” but a “slim down” – I’m sure the parents and kids dependent on food services and immunizations, as well as low-income people who need help with their utilities, to say nothing of our veterans on active duty wondering if their spouses can obtain day care for their kids, among many others, don’t look at it that way.)

    Here are the excerpts from Thomas’s column…

    Bobby Jindal (Louisiana) who wants you to know that his state’s GDP has grown by $36 billion since 2008, nearly twice the national rate. That puts Louisiana eighth best in the country and third best in the South.

    …Jindal (also) says his state has become a “national leader” in charter schools with 80 percent of New Orleans students enrolled in them.

    Actually, as noted here, the majority of the schools cited in a report that Jindal presented on “Meet the Press” received C, D, and F grades (with many F grades showing as “No Action” instead).

    Jindal also said here that racism is the fault of minorities for supposedly not being “American” enough here; also, this presents more “cold light of day” stuff in response to Jindal’s supposed successes, including his support of tax cuts for the wealthy and tax hikes for everyone else (of course) and his refusal to provide health care for his state’s poorest citizens.

    Back to Thomas…

    John Kasich (Ohio) closed an $8 billion shortfall without raising taxes and cut taxes by $3 billion. He eliminated the “death tax,” modernized Medicaid, eliminated the bureaucratic Department of Development and created a private, nonprofit corporation — JobsOhio — to “respond to job creators’ needs at their pace instead of at ‘the speed of statute.’”

    It should also be noted from here that Kasich, along with “Goodhair” Perry of Texas, denied $731 million in unemployment funds for their states (and under Kasich’s supposed “jobs” program, unemployment actually went up; no word on whether or not these events took place “at the speed of statute”).

    Oh, and did you know that, according to here, Ohio is 47th in private-sector job creation?

    Back to Thomas…

    Susana Martinez (New Mexico) boosted funding for education and Medicaid without raising taxes; cooperated with a Democratic legislature, passing the New Mexico Jobs Package, which reduced the tax rate on businesses from 7.6 percent to 5.9 percent; moved the state from 38th in the nation in export growth three years ago to first today; turned a structural deficit into a surplus and enacted comprehensive tax reform.

    Martinez also vetoed a minimum wage increase (here) and cut in half the budget for the only agency in the entire state devoted to recruiting businesses for jobs (here).

    And as noted from here, Martinez overstepped her authority when she fired two members and the executive director of Public Employee Labor Relations Board, as ruled by the state supreme court. She also vetoed a business tax increase that the state’s businesses actually lobbied for to shore up the state’s unemployment compensation fund (so much for “comprehensive tax reform”).

    Back to Thomas…

    Nikki Haley (South Carolina) pushed through tax reform on small businesses, which she claims, resulted in South Carolina having the fastest growing manufacturing sector on the East Coast and creating 38,000 new jobs, which have contributed $9 billion in new investment.

    Of the five governors on this supposedly “got it right” list, Haley may be the most hilarious citation of them all (unintentionally so, I realize).

    As noted here, South Carolina is basically #35 in job growth (they were 46th in August 2012, so I guess that’s some progress…don’t know whether they still have the third-highest youth unemployment rate of nearly 20 percent). Also, this tells us how unemployed residents of her state took to sending Haley postcards as a gesture not to forget about them while she traveled all over the country on behalf of Willard Mitt Romney.

    Haley’s response (one of them, anyway)? As noted here, she ordered state workers to act “cheerful” on the phone (uh huh).

    And here are some more numbers telling you the awful story of a state whose residents apparently have decided to give Not Your Father’s Republican Party every single thing they want…

    Here in SC unionization is actually illegal. As you all can see, SC is a vibrant, thriving, beacon of hope for all states to look up to:

    –41st in age 25 and over with High School diploma
    –1st in the country in mobile homes as a % of total housing
    –42nd in disposable personal income
    –9th in families below poverty
    –9th in individuals below poverty
    –38th in median family income

    And back to Thomas one last time…

    Scott Walker (Wisconsin) reversed a $3.6 billion deficit he inherited and turned it into a surplus. He provided nearly $1 billion in tax relief for families and businesses that sparked a two-year job growth, which he says is the best in the state under any governor in 10 years.

    Yes indeed, what would a list like this be without Hosni Mubarak Walker? For starters, this is what Politifact said about Walker’s “two-year job growth” claim (too funny – actually, as noted here, Wisconsin was 11th in job creation before Walker took over, but now they’re 38th). And if the state was really generating jobs, then why would Walker be so desperate that he’s blaming the stuff in Syria for its puny growth (here)?

    Also, if Walker is supposed to be so smart with the money, how come Wisconsin keeps increasing its long-term borrowing (here – this and a lot more stuff on the guy who, more than anyone else, embodies the Koch Brothers method of “governance” can be found here).

    And while we’re on the subject of Republican governors, this tells us (returning to the BLS link) that, at best, the land of “Governor Bully” is 41st in the country when it comes to unemployment (50 is the worst).

    However, you wouldn’t know that from this bit of fluffery from Matt Katz of The Philadelphia Inquirer here

    WAYNE, N.J. – In the first debate between candidates who disagree on just about everything, Gov. Christie on Tuesday presented a positive view of an economically strong New Jersey recovering from Hurricane Sandy while his challenger, State Sen. Barbara Buono, described a state struggling under “Romney-style” economics and far-right social conservatism.

    The one-hour debate at William Paterson University, aired live on CBS3, began with a heavy focus on gay marriage, which Buono, a Democrat, supports and the Republican governor opposes, before moving on to property taxes, the minimum wage, and the Affordable Care Act.

    Buono sought to frame Christie as a governor committed to running for president – an assertion that Christie didn’t exactly deny – while Christie described Buono as a tax-and-spend partisan in the mold of former Gov. Jon S. Corzine. On that issue, Buono did not respond to Christie’s challenge to walk back one of the 154 tax and fee increases she voted for as an assemblywoman and later as a state senator.

    Buono is down as much as 33 points in polls and suffering from a severe cash disadvantage, so the debate was seen as her best opportunity to introduce herself to voters and land punches on the popular incumbent. Although she dropped a few zingers, Christie didn’t commit gaffes, and the debate lacked the sound bites that can go viral via social media.

    Yes, I know the odds are long here, but there’s no percentage at all if we do nothing; to do what you can to help Barbara Buono and Milly Silva, please click here.

  • Next, it looks like former Bushie Ari Ari Bobari is leaving CNN (awwww) to spend more time propagandizing and spewing bilious garbage with his family, or something (here – and don’t you know that “Tiger Beat on the Potomac” is ON IT, PEOPLE??!!).

    Well, given this career change/detour/whatever, I thought that it was a good time to look back on some of his most notorious lowlights:

  • Here, he told a mother whose son died in his former boss’s Not-So-Excellent Adventure in Iraq that “there are going to be a lot more mothers” like you (nice guy – Ari being a member of “Freedom’s Watch,” a bunch of Iraq war cheerleaders including Ed Snider, owner of the Philadelphia Flyers).
  • He once called for the late Helen Thomas to be fired for supposedly hateful comments, though when it comes to Flush Limbore and Glenn Beck, silence is golden, as the song goes (here).
  • He also falsely claimed that Obama had a proposal to eliminate charitable deductions here, for which he wasn’t called out by Wolf Blitzer (shocking, I know).
  • And did you know that Fleischer secretly worked to undermine the relationship that the Susan G. Komen foundation once had with Planned Parenthood, as noted here?
  • Despite all of this, I’m sure Ari will never want for clients, as noted here when golfer Tiger Woods hired Fleischer to help “repair” his image, though they quickly parted ways because Fleischer’s reputation was so bad that it harmed Woods’ rehabilitation (here…God, worse than a philandering husband? Nice one, Ari!).

    And how thoughtful of Ari to provide this bit of idiocy to make this post even more timely.

  • Continuing, I give you more nonsense from Tucker Carlson’s Crayon Scribble Page that appeared on 10/08 (here)…

    After meeting with Wall Street executives to discuss the impending debt ceiling crisis last week, President Obama appeared on CNBC. He said that not lifting the debt ceiling would lead to catastrophic results. The White House appears determined to drum up fear to achieve their goal of increasing the limit without concessions. Inciting panic in the financial sector only benefits the White House in their apparent pursuit of general hysteria.

    It seems, however, that the financial sector chose not to play along.

    DJIA_1008
    What appears above is a snapshot of the Dow Jones Industrial Average from last Tuesday (lather, rinse, repeat…).

  • Further, we have Mikey the Beloved trying to burnish his imaginary “centrist” bona fides by supporting “one-at-a-time” legislation to fund particular areas of government that he likes (here). How decent of him.

    However, as noted by Kevin Strouse, running for the Dem nomination to challenge Fitzpatrick next year (from here)…

    Strouse, a former Army Ranger and CIA officer, said that the bills are piecemeal solutions and that veterans in particular should not be used as leverage. He highlighted the work the Veterans Benefits Administration has done to attack the 12-month backlog of claims submitted by veteran soldiers. The continued shutdown threatens to erase the office’s efforts to process the paperwork, Strouse said.

    Also, I’ll let you in on the little “con” that Mikey and his pals are trying to pull; the language they use is “well, we’ll vote for a ‘clean’ CR to fund the government when the bill is brought to the floor for a vote”…but our wet noodle PA-08 rep won’t support such a vote.

    If you’re as fed up with this crap as I am, then click here to support Kevin Strouse, which would be a step in the right direction; our goal is to retire Mikey to private live once and for all in 2014 (…and getting mocked by the Taliban, as noted here – every time I think we can’t sink lower on this, we do).

  • Finally, I came across this item from clownhall.com and Dennis Prager…

    Rejection of the old is a reason the left has contempt for the Bible. To progressives, the idea of having 2,000 and 3,000-year-old texts guide a person’s behavior today is ludicrous.

    The wingnuts really do make it too easy sometimes; I give you the following verses from here (yes, the holy book of my faith does inform my opinions and, I think, provides the appropriate context for political developments – I hope that the Bible informs my actions too, but I guess that’s debatable)…

    Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. 4 Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked (Psalm 82:3-4).

    My response is here.

    Better a poor man whose walk is blameless than a fool whose lips are perverse (Proverbs 19:1).

    My response is here.

    The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern (though I guess the above quote would fit also – Proverbs 29:7).

    My response is here.

    Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12-14)

    My response is here.

    And finally, from here

    For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also (James 2:26).

    My response is here (and here).


    Let us pray.


  • Friday Mashup (9/27/13)

    September 27, 2013
  • I give you the latest in faux indignation from clownhall.com (here)…

    In the case of Obamacare, Members of Congress of both parties did not want to give up their superior health insurance for the system they imposed on the rest of us. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, saw this for the hypocrisy it is and proposed an amendment to the bill that forced members and their staff to do just that. It made the final cut in the bill because to oppose it would be to admit before passage the system progressives sought to force on Americans was inferior to what existed.

    Now that it’s the law, well, that’s a different story. Congress, with significant pressure from President Obama, forced the Office of Personnel Management to “reinterpret” the law to allow significant subsidies (our money) to be paid to them and their staff to cover the cost of premiums. If you’re in a similar income bracket and situation in the private sector you can’t get the deal they gave themselves.

    As noted here from Factcheck.org, the so-called “special subsidy” for the health care law “.. Is Simply A Premium Contribution” The Federal Government Has “Long Made To The Health Insurance Policies Of Its Workers.”

    And “Democrat-controlled Senate “ – bless Derek Hunter’s pointed little wingnut head.

    And get a load of this…

    Once the president started to delay, change and ignore parts of his own law, Republicans should have gone straight to court to force Democrats to implement the law as written or repeal it.

    Ummm – I wonder if this nematode knows that the Affordable Care Act was validated by the U.S. Supreme Court, including the individual mandate? Or that the whole damn thing came from the Heritage Foundation via Willard Mitt Romney anyway?

    Yes, I know – lather, rinse, repeat…

    It gets better…

    When Rush Limbaugh made his Sandra Fluke joke the left mobilized and to this day remain in combat mode. They harass him and his sponsors constantly. Rush apologized, but that wasn’t good enough.

    I’m not even going to make the effort to defend Flush Limbore, who is indefensible on so many levels.

    A joke? Try 46 personal attacks on Fluke, as noted here (and he deserves every bit of the fallout noted here).

    Besides, “the professional left,” or whatever we’re called these days, has nothing on the Teahadists, who hate the Affordable Care Act so much that they even turned on one of their own in Congress, who sponsored a dozen bills to repeal it (here).

    When Republican candidates no one had ever heard of made stupid comments about rape, every Republican was made to answer for them. Democrats had three prominent perverts in the news in San Diego and New York in the last month, people who did abhorrent things – not just say them – and it took weeks for any Democrat to be asked to simply distance themselves from them.

    Bob Filner is out as mayor of San Diego, and Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner both lost their elections. So what logical reason is there for still talking about them?

    Hunter then engages in some truly hilarious guilt by association concerning health care reform and someone named Allan Brauer of the Sacramento, CA “Democrat” Party, lamenting that “were conservatives to treat Allan Brauer the way progressives treat their political opponents, every time he engaged in any political discourse this (and his other comments) would be trotted out like a scarlet letter to discredit him” (I’ll admit that Brauer’s behavior was pretty unconscionable, but for what it’s worth, at least he apologized, as noted here; he had a point about Cruz, but he took it way too far).

    Maybe if conservatives did a little better job of self-policing (despite Hunter’s bleating about every Repug quite rightly having to answer for “legitimate rape” Akin and his pals), then there wouldn’t be a need to call them out, even though Brauer definitely took it to extremes, like I said; an example is Sherri Goforth, the aide to Repug U.S. House Rep Diane Black, who, as noted here, sent an Email depicting Barack Obama as two eyes peering out of a black background (and I am not aware of any apology from Goforth for that disgusting mailer).

  • Next, I have to confess that I’d never seen the phrase “big abortion” used before, until now anyway – I guess it shouldn’t be surprising in the least that it came from Marjorie Dannenfelser (here)…

    The Washington Post got just one thing right in its (recent) editorial: the results of Virginia’s November 5th election will have widespread implications for the fate of abortion facilities – and women – across the Commonwealth. The next occupant of the governor’s mansion will be responsible for enforcing the abortion facility health and safety standards enacted by the General Assembly and the Board of Health last year.

    The Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, has already vowed to unilaterally help existing abortion clinics skirt the regulations. It is this unwavering loyalty to the abortion industry – which has likewise fought tooth and nail against being regulated – instead of the health and safety of women that should give every Virginian pause.

    I think it’s actually grotesque for Dannenfelser to basically say that the abortion restrictions in the “Virginia is for Lovers” state are intended for “the health and safety of women.”

    As noted here (from November 2011)…

    The regulations, commissioned by the state legislature and written by the Virginia Department of Health, are largely unrelated to patient health and safety. They would treat abortion clinics as if they are hospitals if the clinics provide five or more first-trimester abortions a month and would enforce architectural design standards that will be almost impossible for most clinics to meet.

    For instance, a clinic must have 5-foot-wide hallways, 8-foot-wide areas outside of procedure rooms, specific numbers of toilets and types of sinks and all of the latest requirements for air circulation flow and electrical wiring. Each clinic must also have a parking spot for every bed, despite the fact that first-trimester abortions don’t require an overnight stay. Further, Department of Health employees will be allowed to enter an abortion facility at any time without notice or identification.

    Virginia Board of Health member Jim Edmundson tried to introduce a number of amendments…that would lessen the severity of the clinic restrictions and give some facilities a chance to comply. However, all but one of the amendments were rejected without a vote. For instance, he tried to distinguish between first-trimester surgical abortions and first-trimester medication abortions, so that the regulations would only apply to surgical procedures, but the amendment was not even seconded.

    “The board is not even seconding proposed amendments being offered,” said Patrick Hurd, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southeast Virginia, who observed the comment and voting process in Richmond on Thursday. “They’re so intimidated by the presence of the attorney general, they’re not even allowing these things to come up for a vote.”

    The attorney general being Ken Cuccinelli, the guy currently losing to Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia governor’s race…

    “(As of November 2011), none of our facilities would be in compliance with these regulations,” said Paulette McElwain, president and CEO of the Virginia League of Planned Parenthood, which has five clinics in the state that provide abortions.

    The point of the regulation changes was to outlaw abortion clinics from practicing in Virginia, period, endangering the health of women seeking a perfectly legal medical procedure.

    Which is exactly what Dannenfelser and her minions want.

    And as noted here, Dannenfelser defended the odious Roy Blunt Amendment, in which the Missouri Repug U.S. Senator tried to “grant employers significant discretion in deciding what kind of health care they want to provide workers” (translated, that means employers could refuse to provide coverage for anything whatsoever to do with those dreaded, icky lady parts). Dannefelser also claimed that Planned Parenthood generated about $300 million in “profit,” which was properly debunked by Politifact (this and a lot more stuff on Dannenfelser can be accessed from here).

  • Continuing, it looks like former CIA head and General David Petraeus was the subject of recent protests when he spoke at City College of New York.

    For the wingnut perspective, I give you this from Fix Noise…

    FOX’s Jesse Watters confronted S. Sandor John, a professor of Latin American studies, about encouraging the student body to pester General Petraeus.

    John said “Students and faculty […] are not okay with a death squad organizer and somebody who organized drone attacks.”

    Jesse also spoke with CUNY students who supported Petraeus’ presence on campus, calling the General a “great professor”

    I don’t know what’s funnier – the fact that the Foxies don’t even bother to acknowledge the charges against Petraeus (here and here), or that Jesse Watters is actually given the imprimatur of respectability (here).

    Meanwhile, I think I should make note of the reality perspective from the same event (here)…

    A new video was just released of police brutalizing one of the City University of New York (CUNY) students protesting a fundraiser featuring former CIA Director and CUNY Macaulay Honors College adjunct professor David Petraeus.

    That video – taken from a new angle than the ones previously released and first featured here on The Dissenter – shows about a dozen police officers swarming a student, slamming him against the hood of a car and holding him there.

    Once pinned down, the video shows a white-shirted officer punch him in the head a couple times and another officer punch him in the head from another angle. He also had his head held in place from the back of neck with a nightstick when pinned down on the ground after being pulled from the car. [*Note: This takes place 5:50 into the embedded video segment.]

    The brutal blows were met with screams and shouts from students, no defense to policemen on a mission.

    Six students eventually were arrested, now known as the “CUNY 6.” They face charges of disorderly conduct, riot, resisting arrest and obstruction of governmental administration and will have a date in court on October 16.

    And though this is an important story, it really isn’t one with major import on foreign or domestic policy (not saying it shouldn’t be, though).

    Here is my point; if Fix Noise sanitized something like this, which will probably end up as little more than a blip on the media radar, imagine how they “report” national or international stories of actual consequence.

  • Further, “Pastor” Gerson at the WaPo goes there on Francis and teh gay here (mentioning the Pope’s namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, who knew “the power of a dramatic gesture”)…

    So Francis observed: “Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person? We must always consider the person.”

    This teaching — to always consider the person — was disorienting from the beginning. The outsiders get invited to the party. The prodigal is given the place of honor. The pious complain about their shocking treatment. The gatekeepers find the gate shut to them. It is subversive to all respectable religious order, which is precisely the point. With Francis, the argument gains a new hearing.

    (Oh, and typical for Gerson, he snuck in a dig earlier in his column about “progressive“ churches on “a panting, unsuccessful search for relevance” – as is usually the case, you’re left wondering what he said for a second or two before you realize just how insulting it really was).

    Gerson really shouldn’t say anything about the gays, though, given his de facto endorsement of Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria (here). Basically, Gerson piled on then-presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008 for the latter’s relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright, when in fact Gerson was (still is?) a member of…

    ..the Falls Church in Falls Church, Va. (Gerson’s) congregation and the nearby Truro Church, (which) played the key role in leading 11 Virginia parishes out of the Episcopal Church after the Church consecrated Gene Robinson, an openly gay man as bishop in 2003. Most of these parishes joined the Church of Nigeria, which Akinola leads.

    Yep, I would say that you could classify this under “the power of a dramatic gesture” also; besides, let’s not be in a rush to throw plaudits at the still-new Pope on the question of human sexuality, particularly in light of this.

  • Finally (and returning to the health care law), I give you the following from Mikey The Beloved’s stenographer in chief, Gary Weckselblatt of the Bucks County Courier Times (here)…

    Democrats and Republicans each reside within their own truth.

    That was never more evident than the recent GOP House vote to fund all government operations, with the notable exception of President Barack Obama’s landmark Affordable Care Act.

    Moments after the 230-189 vote for the Continuing Resolution — only two Democrats and one Republican switched sides — the political spin machines worked to churn raw cream into sweet butter over an impending government shutdown.

    The headline on press releases from Congressmen Mike Fitzpatrick, R-8, Middletown, and Patrick Meehan, R-7, Drexel Hill, said the vote meant government would continue running.

    For Democrats such as Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, D-13, Jenkintown, however, a government shutdown and the nation’s default were looming.

    One vote and the two parties’ opinions are as divergent as Oscar and Felix.

    I’ve had to endure some truly awful columns from Gary Weckselblatt over the years, but this may actually be the worst of all. It is the ultimate embodiment of the “both sides are just as bad” narrative. This might as well be called “The Health Care Reform Issue Is Too Confusing For Me To Understand, So Instead, I’m Just Going To Give Up And Write Nothing But Snark.”

    I’ll tell you what – here is an actual news story with actual reporting, something Weckselblatt is apparently incapable of crafting, even though it’s supposed to be his job (more is also here and here)…

    The House of Representatives passed a 2014 continuing resolution Friday with a vote of 230 to 189. The $986.3 billion stopgap bill would fund the government until Dec. 15, preventing a government shutdown, but it’s expected to be dead on arrival in the Senate, as it also defunds the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

    It was the 42nd vote the GOP has taken to repeal the new health care law. The Senate is expected to restore funding and return the bill to the House. If lawmakers cannot agree on a funding measure by Sept. 30, there will be a government shutdown on Oct. 1.

    So yes, the Republicans in the House passed the continuing resolution to fund the government, stripping out the funding for the Affordable Care Act in the process. So they are technically correct in saying that they passed the CR over to the Senate.

    Now that it’s there, the bill will have the funding for the Act reinserted into it when the filibuster of “Calgary” Cruz eventually ends with the conclusion of the “filibuster” by “Calgary” Cruz (which, ostensibly, is the reason for his filibuster antics, though in reality the point is to gin up more phony outrage, to say nothing of dollars from campaign contributors, for his 2016 presidential run). And when the funding is reinserted, the bill will be sent back to the House, where it likely will fail to pass.

    So Schwartz’s remark is based on that eventuality (smartly moving a step or two ahead of things –she’s such a bright lady that she should run for governor :-)). And guess who now shares that view?

    Boehner_Time_Shutdown_0926
    Oh, and a budget deal has to be approved by September 30th, the end of the government calendar year, or else we really will have a default for real (though Treasury has said October 17th, I believe). Of course, Obama could just reconsider doing this (yes, I know it’s a trick, but if it keeps the government running)…

    Also, if you want to know the polling on this issue, just look at this – it’s been pretty consistent for awhile now (the hell with Terry Madonna – yes, there are a lot opposed, but a lot are in favor also…what matters are the trends). And though this is a bit funny, it’s also a bit pathetic too (approval for the ACA rose 8 points among Repugs when it wasn’t called “Obamacare”).

    This is all a consequence of the truly lazy “reporting” on this issue, as noted here, and embodied by Weckselblatt – he really should stop stealing from his employer with this crap and click here at long last (i.e., take my advice and apply at Pottery Barn – probably looking for seasonal hires about now).

    And as I was about to put the wraps on this post, I came across this item (h/t Atrios) from Ed Kilgore of Washington Monthly, opining on a similar column by Ron Fournier, who is an old hand at manufacturing the old “equivalency” narrative. I was struck by this excerpt in particular…

    At the risk of getting maudlin about it all, I’d say we all lose when respected journalists look at something like Boehner’s debt limit bill and see it as no worse than the President saying we ought to pay our bills and keep that separate from our differences over spending and taxing. The Equivalency Formula makes it impossible to see clown clothes, and thus encourages clowns to cut capers even more.

    And to take the circus metaphor to its logical conclusion, the calliope will keep playing, along with the parade of jugglers and fire-eaters while the acrobats swing high above, until one day, the show closes, the cleanup begins, the ring shuts down and the pitched tents are rolled up and put away for good, and we have nothing left.


  • Friday Mashup (5/10/13)

    May 10, 2013
  • I happened to check in to The Gun Report, the blog of New York Times columnist Joe Nocera, and he told us here a couple of days ago that New York State has divested itself of gun-related holdings from its public employee pension plan, following the lead of California. And according to this, Pennsylvania has gun-related holdings in their public employee pension plans which are basically negligible at this point (even though I don’t know what that last sentence in the philly.com piece actually means).

    And as long as I’m on the subject of our beloved commonwealth, this from a recent Philadelphia Inquirer article tells us that our illustrious governor Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett is proposing a “fix” to the public employee pension plans (actually, he has proposed this for a little while now, but details, or what pass for them, seem to be trickling out at last – a bill number has apparently been assigned in the legislature, and Corbett wants it approved by July 1st).

    As noted here, though…

    Sen. John Blake, D-Archbald, ranking Democrat on the finance panel, said the governor’s plan will add to pension debt instead of reducing it.

    “Moving new employees to a 401(a) will undermine the investment performance of our existing pension systems…,” Blake said. “Further, 401(a) retirement plans are proven to provide lower financial returns and by, disaggregating investment, expose workers with different levels of financial literacy to the vagaries of the markets while sending millions in fees to the financial service industry – money that should instead be invested and managed by experts to guarantee retirement security for our workers.”

    Switching to a defined contribution plan for future hires will leave a less secure retirement for new employees, said state Treasurer Rob McCord, a potential Democratic candidate for governor next year.

    “So far, the 401(k) plans have failed in that regard,” McCord said.

    And of course, it’s not as if Corbett is willing to cut back on his stinking tax cuts for his “pay no price, bear no burden” pals to cover the difference, as noted here.

  • Next, in more “News for the Investor Class,” I give you the following (here)…

    We have our Twinkies back! And our Ding Dongs, Ho Hos and Wonder Bread. As The Daily Caller reported on April 24, key assets of bankrupt Hostess Brands have been sold to private equity firms and plans are underway to open new plants. Presumably, the new owners will operate non-union.

    If they don’t blow it.

    To refresh your memory, last fall Hostess Brands, the maker of iconic products such as the aforementioned Twinkies, suspended all operations and began liquidating assets in response to a nationwide strike by the bakery workers’ union. The union was striking over requested concessions the company needed to stay in business. Over the following weeks and months, Hostess let go most of its 18,500 workers as it shut down operations and started trying to sell its valuable brands. The asset sale yielded fruit, and the new Hostess has announced it will open three plants in the near future and start hiring workers.

    Yeah, well, that’s the wingnut spin on this story. Here is the reality point of view (from last November – this is alluded to in the Daily Tucker piece, but of course it isn’t properly documented)…

    Even as it blamed unions for the bankruptcy and the 18,500 job losses that will ensue, Hostess already gave its executives pay raises earlier this year. The salary of the company’s chief executive tripled from $750,000 to roughly $2.5 million, and at least nine other executives received pay raises ranging from $90,000 to $400,000. Those raises came just months after Hostess originally filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.

    It is indeed good news that the jobs related to manufacturing items under the Hostess brand are being saved. And based on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution story noted in the Daily Tucker post…

    Hostess Brands, which is hiring for several bakeries, including one in Columbus, emphasized Monday that it will not discriminate against applicants on the basis of union membership or activities.

    The strident effort to clear the air on its hiring plans followed comments last week by Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dean Metropoulos, who suggested the company would be staffing plants with non-union labor.

    Under the headline “New Twinkie Maker Shuns Union,” Metropoulos reportedly told The Wall Street Journal that the company does “not expect to be involved in the union going forward.”

    In a statement Monday, Hostess Brands said it “intends to hire the most qualified applicants, regardless of their age, race, gender, or prior or current union affiliation.” It added that “none of the company representatives stated or intended to imply that Hostess will be avoiding union-represented employees or job applicants.”

    Of course, I could really be a pointy-headed liberal here and wonder what it says about our glorious system of private enterprise that the manufacture of junk food is a growth industry. But I won’t.

  • Further, I give you this item from “Tiger Beat on the Potomac,” as Charles Pierce quite rightly calls Politico…

    Conservative radio talk show host Craig Bergman is sick of Republicans failing to appeal to environmentalists, and he’s making a documentary to try to bridge the gap.

    He’s behind a new Kickstarter campaign for “Unsustainable,” the documentary underway that Bergman hopes will provide common sense solutions for environmental concerns.

    “We are conservatives but we believe there is a vast swath of common ground,” Bergman told POLITICO. “This is not a right wing, radical, beat ‘em up, red meat movie.”

    He added, “We’re not trying to get into the, ‘I’m right, you’re wrong,’ debate. That’s the whole problem. We’re trying to get into what used to be old fashioned politics, which was two people who would sit down, both wanting the same result, to protect the environment and then deciding how best, under our constitutional framework of liberties and individual rights, do we get there? We haven’t had that on this issue in 30 years.”

    He cited examples of what he considers to be both left and right wing extremism on environmental issues, such as a man in Colorado who was threatened with federal prison for collecting rainwater on his property.

    And he singles out his conservative brethren for making light of environmental issues, including “some of the ridiculous things you hear from some of my compatriots on talk radio, where they say things like, ‘Well, everyone, today is Earth Day so be sure you roll down your windows while your air conditioning is on, hee, hee, hee.’ That does nothing to help the dialogue.”

    “We’ve got hundreds of examples of abuses on the right and abuses on the left.”

    “Hundreds” on “the left,” huh?

    “We are going to take the position that exposes the bad science,” he said. So do you believe in climate change, then?

    “I don’t know that there is a conclusion. That’s part of the problem. It needs to be a dialogue. It does not need to be an absolute definitive, because nobody knows.”

    For the uninitiated, I should note that this is the very definition of “concern trolling” (wonder if this Craig Bergman guy is associated with “No Labels” in any way?).

    Aside from linking to statistical study after statistical study pointing out the obvious (as noted here), I could also mention that the biggest obstacle towards a common sense policy on CO2 emissions and reusable energy are the Teahadists, funded by the Koch Brothers who want us to choke on our fossil fuels while the planet continues to melt (and many of those life forms constitute Bergman’s audience).

    Ordinarily, I would be happy to read about someone trying to achieve some kind of a mutual understanding on an issue. But as far as I’m concerned, the science on this issue has been settled for about 30 years (so, contrary to Bergman’s claim, I would say that EVERYBODY knows, as noted here.)

  • Moving on, Karl Rove concocted the following at the Murdoch Street Journal here

    Thinking strategically about Iran also might have led Mr. Obama to act earlier for regime change in Syria. After two years of fighting, the war is spilling into Lebanon, Iraq and Israel. A million Syrian refugees are flooding into Jordan.

    Of course, the war of choice in Iraq waged by Rove’s old boss created at least two million refugees, as noted here (actually, four million if you count those inside the country). But who’s counting, right?

    “Turd Blossom” also tells us the following…

    (Obama) would also not have sabotaged chances for a U.S. military presence in Iraq by insisting on parliamentary approval of a status-of-forces agreement. A U.S. presence in Iraq would have reduced Iranian influence in Baghdad and diminished the likelihood of sectarian conflict in Iraq.

    Does Rove mean the SOFA approved by the Iraqi parliament before Former President Nutball left office in 11/08 (here)? Any by the way, the terms of the agreement mandated that all US troops would leave.

    Rove also criticized Obama for his moves related to missile defense in Poland and Czechoslovakia, with the goal of getting NATO more involved, a group the Repugs hate, of course…basically, Obama wants NATO to get more involved on the issue of defense against potential short-to-medium-range rockets from Iran, as noted here (part of that whole Kenyan Muslim Marxist notion of making other countries more responsible for their own sovereignty as oppose to us being the “policeman” everywhere, I guess).

    And if Obama is supposed to be so “aloof,” then why did “Bibi” Netanyahu express his “appreciation” for Obama helping Israel defend itself from Palestinian rockets, as noted here? And is Rove seriously going to argue that Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History was “close to” German Chancellor Angela Merkel…

    5127738-bush-merkel
    …when the memory of this utter idiocy is still fresh in our minds?

    Rove also alleges that Obama “undercut the new Libyan president, Mohammed Magarief”; I’m only mentioning this nonsense because I have a question.

    How many people out there know that that country has arrested 50 people in connection with the death of Ambassador Stevens and three others, as noted here (“BENGHAZI!!!”)? Show of hands?

  • Continuing (and overlapping on Rove a bit), it looks like David Horowitz has somehow emerged from some foul nether regions somewhere to foist this upon us…

    Obama’s desire for rapprochement with the Islamist regime in Iran has prompted the administration to drag its feet on the sanctions designed to halt Tehran’s nuclear program. For the same reason, the president and his administration were silent when hundreds of thousands of Iranians poured into the streets of Tehran to call for an end to the dictatorship and were met by an orgy of violence from the mullahs’ thugs.

    Obama was “silent,” huh? Really?

    Continuing…

    The administration’s denial was glaring also in its response to the massacre of 13 unarmed soldiers at Fort Hood by an Islamic fanatic and terrorist, Nidal Malik Hasan, who three and a half years later still has not been brought to trial.

    Unbelievable – through one of the easiest Google searches in my life, I learned from here that the trial of Hasan will begin later this month, on the 29th.

    And as far as I’m concerned, it’s particularly grotesque for Horowitz to bring up the Ft. Hood shootings, which he infamously once said were “the chickens of the left coming home to roost” here (I guess this is the crap you come up with when you are no longer being bankrolled to travel to colleges all over the country to scream about alleged “liberal bias”).

    Continuing, Horowitz rants as follows…

    Obama had previously intervened in Egypt, the largest and most important country in the Middle East, to force the removal of its pro-American leader, Hosni Mubarak. He then promoted the (Muslim) Brotherhood’s ascension to power by portraying it as a “moderate” actor in the democratic process. As the Middle East situation deteriorated, the Muslim Brotherhood became the chief beneficiary of America’s financial, diplomatic, and military support. This same Brotherhood was the driving force behind the Islamist surge, the mentor of Osama bin Laden and the leaders of al-Qaeda, and the creator of Hamas. Rather than being quarantined, the Brotherhood-dominated government in Cairo has received hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid and F-16 bomber jets from the Obama administration that had facilitated its rise to power.

    Oh brother – in response, this tells us the following…

    (In Egypt) The Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda hate each other. The former view the latter as terrorists, and the latter view the former as traitors to the cause. Critics of the Muslim Brotherhood often cite a common ideological ancestor of both the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda, Sayyid Qutb, to draw connections between them. But this obscures the depth of the ideological and religious gulf between the two. The willingness of the Brotherhood to pursue its goals through legitimate democratic means, without violence, is precisely the point — and precisely why the Egyptian uprising threatens more extreme groups even if it empowers the Muslim Brotherhood.

    Here’s more from Horowitz…

    In Libya, al-Qaeda terrorists overran an American consular compound and murdered the U.S. ambassador and three brave staffers. The attack took place in a country that had recently been destabilized by Obama’s own intervention to oust its dictator.

    I guess it was inevitable that Horowitz would invoke BENGHAZI!!, but as far as presidents destabilizing countries goes, let’s not forget that, as noted here, U.S. diplomat David Foy was murdered in Pakistan the same day that Number 43 agreed to send nukes to India, as noted here (and I don’t recall hearing a peep of protest at the time from Huckleberry Graham, Gramps McCain, or any other supposed foreign policy Repug Senatorial genius – hat tip to Bob Cesca for that info on Pakistan, as noted here…and by the way, on the whole BENGHAZI!!! thing, isn’t this interesting?).

    I could go on, but you get the idea (and to demonstrate what a supposedly enlightened character Horowitz is, not, here are some of his reactions to people who disagree with him).

  • Also, I give you the latest foul activities of that insect Jesse Watters, promoted as you might expect by Fix Noise here

    (Watters is) headed to Columbia University to get the community’s reaction to the decision to hire Kathy Boudin, a convicted cop killer, and confronts the controversial professor about her actions.

    As noted here, however…

    As a member of various radical militant groups during the 1960s and 1970s, Boudin advocated extreme measures to combat what she saw as racism, sexism, and American imperialism. And then, in 1981, she participated in the armed robbery of a Brinks security truck–and although she carried no weapon nor directly caused any injuries, she was, in her own words, “morally responsible for all the tragic consequences that resulted.” Nobody pretends to justify Boudin’s actions–they were repugnant.

    However, in the years that followed, Boudin tried to make amends. At Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, where she was incarcerated, Boudin founded AIDS Counseling and Education, a women’s group that provided support for HIV-infected women, combated stigmatism and harassment in the prison, and made sure that women had access to needed medication. She organized programs for teenagers with incarcerated mothers, taught classes on parenting, and helped Columbia Law School teach inmates about the rights and responsibilities of incarcerated parents. She published scholarship about her work in–among other places–the Harvard Educational Review.

    Yes, what Boudin once did was wrong. But even though Boudin’s conduct and actions with the Weather Underground were awful and remain so, she didn’t engage in violent activity or shoot the Brinks officer whose father wrote the commentary on Fix Noise (I would have a problem with someone interfering with commerce if they were engaged in the destructive activity Boudin was engaged in or blocking a Planned Parenthood clinic, as Watters was involved in here and here).

    And by the way, as long as we’re talking about Planned Parenthood here, I want to say that I think we’re looking at the trial of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell exactly the wrong way – yes, the evidence is horrific, and the full weight of the law should be brought down if he’s found guilty (here).

    However, in consideration of this item, maybe with proper teen and pre-teen sex-ed and related funding, do you think just one of those tiny lives would have been spared or prevented from conception if, just maybe, Planned Parenthood had been demonized just a little bit less? And if that had been the case, with more P.P. funding, would there have even been a need for Gosnell’s clinic at all?

  • 050813_sergei-bobrovsky_600

  • Finally, turning to the world of sports, congratulations to former Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (pictured), now with the Columbus Blue Jackets, for earning a nomination for the Vezina Trophy, the NHL’s highest award to goalies (here). Other nominees are Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers and Antti Niemi of the San Jose Sharks (Niemi, by the way, was once available as a free agent after the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals, and the Flyers could have signed him, but instead chose to give $3 million to Jody Shelley, who will probably never be anything more than a goon).

    Here are the other former Flyers currently still active in the NHL 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs:

    Arron Asham (New York Rangers)
    Daniel Carcillo (Chicago Blackhawks)
    Darroll Powe (New York Rangers)
    Dennis Seidenberg (Boston Bruins)
    Harry Zolnierczyk (Anaheim Ducks)
    James van Riemsdyk (Toronto Maple Leafs)
    Jaromir Jagr (Boston Bruins)
    Jeff Carter (Los Angeles Kings)
    Joffrey Lupul (Toronto Maple Leafs)
    Justin Williams (Los Angeles Kings)
    Ken Hitchcock (St. Louis Blues)
    Luca Sbisa (Anaheim Ducks)
    Mark Eaton (Pittsburgh Penguins)
    Martin Biron (New York Rangers)
    Michal Handzus (Chicago Blackhawks)
    Mike Richards (Los Angeles Kings)
    Patrick Sharp (Chicago Blackhawks)
    Ray Emery (Chicago Blackhawks)
    Steve Eminger (New York Rangers)

    Good luck to one and all.


  • Friday Mashup (3/15/13)

    March 15, 2013
  • This story from The Hill tells us the following…

    The White House is playing defense over the decision to cancel tours at President Obama’s residence, the latest stumble for Obama in the messaging war with Republicans over the sequester.

    What total garbage…

    The reason the White House tours were cancelled, as noted here, was because of cutbacks to the Secret Service (the story tells us that the Obama White House is asking if the Secret Service could allow tours to resume for school groups). If the Secret Service isn’t able to both accommodate visitors and protect the President and the First Family because of budgetary reasons, then the tours should be cancelled.

    Of course, as far as the Repugs and their media acolytes are concerned, unemployed workers, children, mothers, and soldiers looking to enroll in the Army’s tuition assistance program aren’t really on their radar, as it were (as well as the thousands, and perhaps millions, of other Americans hurt by the sequester). But do something to shed a spotlight on their stupidity, and they’ll howl like the weasels that they truly are.

  • Next (and staying with The Hill), I give you this from Pope wannabe Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston (tough luck there)…

    (O’Malley) called on lawmakers Friday to exempt any employer who objects to birth control from having to meet the healthcare law’s mandate for providing the coverage to employees.

    O’Malley wrote that Rep. Diane Black’s (R-Tenn.) legislation preserves the “vitally important traditions of religious freedom and the right of conscience.”

    I’ve already pointed out that the Obama Administration allowed a “conscience” guideline in the health care law for certain religious organizations that didn’t want contraceptive services covered as noted here (see the ** notation at the bottom), so I don’t intend to revisit that “hobby horse” no matter how much O’Malley and his brethren want to ride it.

    Instead, I want to take a closer look at the U.S. House Repug behind this latest bit of “values voter” pandering (from the same state that gave us Marsha Blackburn)…

  • Here, Diane Black introduced legislation that basically bars government funding of Planned Parenthood, even though legislation of that type singling out a group is unconstitutional (like the Mike Johanns/ACORN stuff).
  • Here, she introduced legislation that would bar gays from adopting children (if a same-sex or LGBT couple wishes to take on the responsibilities of parenthood, I wish them luck).
  • Here, she said that “children with pre-existing conditions and chronic illnesses should not have to be covered under their parent’s plan by insurance companies. Her reasoning is that insurance companies would lose too much money” (I’ll give you a moment to do the same slow burn I did if you wish).
  • Oh, and based on this, Tennessee ranks 41st out of 50 states when it comes to teen birth rate, it ranks 42nd out of 50 states when it comes to teen pregnancy rate, and it also ranks 42nd out of 50 in public costs for births resulting from unintended pregnancies (1 is best among U.S. states, and 50 is worst; this is the most recent data I could find).

    That’s something a reasonably intelligent life form should consider before attacking an organization dedicated to the sexual health of women of all ages, to say nothing of the overall health of many of the constituents she allegedly represents (of course, since we’re talking about someone like Black, it is very likely that the description of “a reasonably intelligent life form” does not apply, and the word “allegedly” should be used as much as necessary when describing her notions of constituent service…oh, and when it comes to conservatives like Black yelling about “big gumint” spending – well, maybe she should take a look in the mirror).

  • Continuing, I give you “Pastor” Gerson of the WaPo here, trying to fire up the Jeb Bush bandwagon for 2016 (spare me)…

    Bush does not approach these issues as a moderate, or even as a Jack Kemp-like bleeding-heart conservative. “Expanding government to empower people? I haven’t been in favor of that. Forty percent of GDP [consumed by government] is the most I can take.” His primary focus is the reform of institutions, particularly the immigration system, public education and Medicare. “Government is mired in the 1970s,” he says, “with huge cost structures and poor outcomes. Every other institution has gone through a transformation. Government hasn’t.”

    As far as “being mired in the 1970s” is concerned, please take a look at the following graph (from here).

    Accumulated_Gross_Debt_031413
    As you can see, the green circle shows this country’s federal government debt during the ‘70s. The red circle shows our debt when Jeb’s brother inhabited An Oval Office. So basically, I wish we really were “mired in the 1970s,” because we’d be a lot better off.

    And I must tell you I got a hoot out of the typical convoluted “bleeding-heart conservative” language from Gerson on Jack Kemp, who was one of the “founding fathers” when it comes to Not Your Father’s GOP and their craven opposition to any tax increase whatsoever.

    This tells us, among other things, that Kemp also called John Kerry and Hillary Clinton “sad, hypocritical and pathetic” for supporting Ned Lamont in his successful Democratic senatorial primary bid in Connecticut in 2006 (Lamont being the anti-Iraq war candidate, as opposed to Holy Joe Lieberman); also, Kemp was considered “unmanageable” as a candidate for ignoring the timers on his speeches, refusing to call contributors, and refusing also to practice for debates.

    Returning to Jeb, this tells us how he flip-flopped on immigration, said Obama “needed a spanking” (so professional) here, and, while he is apparently wooing voters of one skin color now, this tells us how he disenfranchised voters of another skin color in 2004.

    Jeb also said that Texas might “go blue” here (dare I dream?). And if you want to revisit Jeb’s role in the Terri Schiavo fiasco from 2005, click here.

  • On we go – this tells us the following…

    A leading GOP critic of the White House’s management of offshore drilling wants to know more about an Interior Department unit tasked with tackling corruption.

    House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said many operational and personnel specifics regarding the Interior Department’s Investigations and Review Unit (IRU) remain hazy, according to a letter first obtained by the Houston Chronicle.

    Established in 2010 and now part of the department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), the unit is charged with stomping out any wrongdoing at firms drilling offshore, the federal officials overseeing them and the relationships between the two.

    “Questions remain about whether the IRU has been allowed to operate as a law enforcement program, reporting only to the BSEE Director and without sufficient public scrutiny and oversight from the Department and Congress,” Hastings said in a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

    In response, I give you this from two years ago…

    The House Natural Resources Committee chairman and his staff wanted to keep the details of his three offshore drilling measures off-limits, even to other Republicans on the committee, so they decided to keep emails to a minimum.

    Hastings’s staff discussed the bills largely through face-to-face conversations to prevent emails from being leaked, a spokesman said.

    […]

    Hastings also held a closed-door, invitation-only meeting with top energy lobbyists, including representatives from Chevron, Patton Boggs and about a dozen others.

    I’m not sure how the Repugs could have chosen someone more hostile to the environment and friendly to business interests, particularly in Washington State, than Hastings; as noted here, Hastings scored just about the lowest possible environmental rating he could from the League of Conservation Voters.

    Hastings assumed the chair of the House Natural Resources Committee in 2010. So the next time you see a teabagger, make sure you thank him (or her) for Hastings, someone who probably has not a clue as to the meaning of the words “environmental stewardship.”

    Update 3/26/13: Hastings is clueless yet again, as noted here, though he does manage to effectively regurgitate GOP talking points.

  • Further (and keeping with the Teahadists), I give you the following from here

    Medicaid is first a moral issue, not an economic one. The poorest and the sickest among us deserve better than a crass political debate over the potential economic windfall Pennsylvania may receive if our state takes federal dollars to expand Medicaid.

    Instead, the debate should focus on the health and dignity of low-income individuals who are relying on Medicaid, or soon will, and how the system is failing to serve our most vulnerable.

    The Medicaid system’s failure is so broad that Forbes Magazine called it a “humanitarian crisis” and a scandal bigger than Bernie Madoff’s investment schemes and the Wall Street bailouts. Gov. Corbett was right to say no to expanding it.

    (Don’t worry, I’ll stop. I don’t want to be responsible for killing more brain cells.)

    If you guessed that the author of this nonsense is Jennifer Stefano of Americans for Prosperity, then you win a free trifold hat, a copy of Dinesh D’Souza’s latest anti-Obama screed, and a poster with Number 44’s face partly morphed into that of Adolf Hitler.

    I can’t think of a word for Stefano’s gall to quite rightly claim that funding Medicaid (I think that’s what she’s talking about) is “first a moral issue,” then turn around and call it a failure (judging from that, Stefano is apparently fine with this). Also, this tells us that funding Medicaid is not only the right thing to do to provide for the poorest residents of our beloved commonwealth, but it also creates jobs (yeah, jobsremember them?).

    This is par for the proverbial course when discussing Stefano, though; as noted here, she claimed, among other things, that the 62 million people who voted to re-elect President Obama last year basically were supporting “some weird ideological agenda,” which presumably includes the Affordable Care Act, which the majority of this country no longer wishes to fight about as noted here (I guess one person’s “weird ideological agenda” is another person’s “oh my love of freaking God, can’t we FINALLY STOP FIGHTING OVER THIS AND TRY TO WORK TOGETHER AND SOLVE OUR PROBLEMS FOR A CHANGE???” epiphany). She also claimed that anyone in the “Occupy” movement wanted to “defecate on the flag” here (all class).

    Oh, and as noted here (fourth bullet), Stefano is perpetually angry at Mikey the Beloved for not passing some Teahadist litmus test, or something. Of course, if Jen wanted to put her money where her proverbial mouth was, she would actually go ahead and “primary” him.

    Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen, though; it apparently benefits Stefano more to be a wingnut celebrity than to engage in the often hard, messy work of an actual political campaign.

  • And speaking of wingnut celebrities, it looks like Pat Boone is back again trying to generate “Drudge bait,” calling Number 44 a “Marxist” here.

    This is typical for Boone, a frequent contributor to World Nut Daily who said here that former Obama nominee for “safe schools czar” Kevin Jennings wanted to erase “taboos against sexual aberrance, possibly including pedophilia.” Boone also said here that the “varmints” in the White House should be “gassed” (figuratively, of course…we also learn about something called “tenting” from Boone in the same column), and he claimed here that Obama informed the “Muslim world” that this country “is no longer a Christian nation.”

    Pat Boone made a name for himself by covering 1950s-era rock n’ roll hits of black artists, including Fats Domino, Little Richard, and Ivory Joe Hunter. Yes, he aided the early career of Elvis Presley and helped to establish this developing new music genre, but he also made a nice, comfortable living for himself from other people’s work. And I guess that’s about what you would expect from a typical grifter, isn’t it?

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  • Finally, I have to say that, as fed up as I am about the wingnut umbrage over Obama and the White House tours as I noted earlier…well, you can times that by about three when it comes to the supposedly “racist” tweet from Progress Kentucky about Elaine Chao, wife of Senate Repug Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (here).

    So the “tweet” points out that Chao has McConnell’s “ear” and that might explain why “your job” may have moved to China. And the fact that Chao is of Asian ancestry supposedly makes that “racist.”

    To begin, I should note that, in my lifetime, Elaine Chao was the absolutely worst Secretary of Labor that I have ever seen (the only Bushco cabinet official to “serve” through both terms of the administration); jobs were indeed offshored to China during her tenure as noted here.

    It should also be noted that H-1B visa fraud increased 27 percent on her watch (here), and this tells us how Bushco, with Chao’s consent of course, sponsored conferences for companies to learn the benefits of offshoring (including avoiding paying taxes) and supported new tax breaks for companies that did the same. Also, this tells us about McConnell’s work for Communist China and (probably) James Chao, Elaine’s father.

    Oh, and the Daily Kos post about her father also reminds us that Chao said the following:

    You could lose your job to a foreign worker — not because he’s cheaper but because he has better workplace skills and discipline. That’s the message Labor Secretary Elaine Chao hears from U.S. executives who are worried about America’s competitive future. While losses are low thus far — one study estimates that only 280,000 jobs in the service industry out of 115 million are outsourced each year — that could change. Beyond the cheaper cost of labor, U.S. employers say that many workers abroad simply have a better attitude toward work. “American employees must be punctual, dress appropriately and have good personal hygiene,” says Chao. “They need anger-management and conflict-resolution skills, and they have to be able to accept direction. Too many young people bristle when a supervisor asks them to do something.”

    As for our job future, Chao notes that most of the fastest-growing jobs today are in industries requiring advanced knowledge and skills and are “very high or high wage.” But critics say we’re not doing enough for those without a higher education. “Today, only 30% of the workforce has four years of college,” says Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute. “Instead of factory slots, there are slots for security guards and food-prep workers.”

    So Chao thinks American workers smell bad, have lousy attitudes, and need to dress better (gee, maybe that’s because we’re not all indentured servants as Chao and her puppet masters would have us, and God willing never will be…kind of like the way many workers are in, say, China?).

    I want to emphasize that I’m not a fan of racial slurs either. However, Chao is different; yes, she is of Asian ancestry, but she also held a job in which she did all she could to utterly screw over workers in this country, and sending their jobs to China was definitely part of that. And she has never apologized for that or for her insulting comments about American workers. And I don’t expect that she ever will.

    In our rush to be “PC,” let’s not lose sight of that, OK?


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