Friday Mashup (6/13/14)

June 13, 2014
  • This story tells us the following (about the recent idiocy in North Carolina Virginia where Phillip Puckett, a thoroughly compromised Dem in the state senate, agreed to resign for a plumb patronage job that he since has chosen not to accept, and let the Repugs take over that body, denying Medicaid expansion in that state)…

    Puckett’s resignation leads the way for him to get a job as deputy director of the state tobacco commission and for his daughter to be confirmed for a state judgeship. Depending on how you look at it, it’s politics at its worst — or best.

    “Republicans I’ve talked to are chortling,” Larry Sabato, founder and director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told Business Insider. “They think it’s one of the cleverest things they’ve done.”

    “And yet,” he added, “one of them asked me, ‘Do you think Democrats would not have done the same thing if they had the opportunity?’ And of course they would have. It’s yet another reason people hate politicians.”

    Perhaps, but is there a recent example of such an occurrence? You know, engaging in political nonsense that could prevent nearly 400,00 people in the state of North Carolina from receiving health care (here)? And let’s see how many Repugs are “chortling” in light of this.

    And Sabato follows up with the following…

    “This is really about Obamacare,” Sabato said of the dispute. “Forget about Medicaid.”

    I realize that it’s Sabato’s job to comment on the “horse race” political stuff and not necessarily the wonky material about, you know, actual policy and legislation that makes a difference in people’s lives, but if he doesn’t know what he’s talking about on this issue (and he obviously doesn’t), then he should shut up.

    You see, the people affected by the treachery orchestrated by Puckett and the North Carolina Repugs are (again) primarily the poor in his state who are due to receive the benefits of “Obamacare” through Medicaid expansion. Arguing that the two are separate in this case is disingenuous at best and outright lying at worst.

    This is par for the ridiculous course when it comes to Sabato, though; as noted here, he once said that the Swift Boat liars who impugned John Kerry ten years ago (remember that one?) were telling the truth; he also said that it would be “a national disgrace” to continue “the Clinton/Bush dynasty” (another idiotic construct as far as I’m concerned; things were a hell of a lot better for me and everyone I know under Bill than under either of the Bushes); and he also said (in the post I linked to previously) that the Democrats are the “mommy” party while the Repugs are the “daddy” party.

  • Next, I give you some truly ripe stuff from Larry Kudlow (here)…

    The Democrats want a minimum-wage hike. That may sound great on the surface, but it’s actually a big job loser for the lowest-skilled and poorest among us. President Obama and his EPA have launched a war on coal, which will cost hundreds of thousands of jobs if implemented. And then there’s Obamacare, which the CBO estimates will cost at least 2.5 million jobs.

    I don’t know how Kudlow can make that claim about the minimum wage with any degree of seriousness whatsoever (much more on that is available from here).

    And as far as coal goes, I also don’t know how Kudlow can seriously make the claim that Obama has “launched a war on coal,” considering that his administration encourages coal burning by aggressively issuing permits to mine coal on federal land, especially the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, as noted here.

    But wait, there’s more…

    With coal demand at home expected to fall by 20 per cent due to new regulations, and competitive pressure from low-priced natural gas, coal companies are now pushing to increase exports to Asia. … Three new coal-export ports are being proposed for the Pacific coast: two in Washington state and one in Oregon. They could eventually ship up to 100 million tons of coal per year—an amountequivalent to the total volume of coal the U.S. will export this year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA). …

    Environmentalists warn that emissions from that volume of coal would dwarf the savings from Obama’s new power plant rule.

    Since 2009, the Obama administration has sold leases for more than two billion tons of coal in the Powder River Basin for rates as low as $1 per ton, drawing the wrath of critics, including some in Congress, who say too much coal is being leased too cheaply. (Coal from the Powder River Basin is worth about $13 per ton.)

    As it reviews its long-term plans for the leases, which could eventually put another 10 billion tons of coal up for auction, the administration has so far resisted calls to include carbon emissions abroad in its decision-making.

    In addition, it looks like Kudlow is trying to propagandize once more about how the Affordable Care Law is a supposed job killer, when in reality (here)…

    The reduction in work hours that equates to 2.5 million jobs “stems almost entirely” from Americans deciding to work less or not at all in order to retain their eligibility for the Affordable Care Act’s expanded Medicaid coverage or government health insurance subsidies, the CBO analysis concludes.

    More on that is here; basically, we’re talking about a reduction in work hours that equates to 2.5 million jobs. Or, to give you an example close to home, maybe Mrs. Doomsy could continue to work on-call for about 20 hours or so a week if she qualified for “Obamacare” instead of having to work a minimum of 32 hours a week for her employer to get health insurance by that way instead (that’s partly a hypothetical and partly reality too, for the record).

    (Oh, and by the way, as you go to the polls later this year, please remember which political party was responsible for a near-catastrophic government shut down last year, and also remember who was one of the shut down’s biggest cheerleaders.)

  • Further, James Jay Carafano waxes hysterical as follows (here)…

    Iraq is a shambles. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Al Qaeda off-shoot that now controls nearly a third of the nation, continues to run amok.

    It’s way past time for the White House to get its head in the game. The disaster unfolding in Iraq and Syria could very quickly spiral into a much, much bigger problem. And some problems are so big that even our president can’t spin his way out.

    At the top of the list of what the administration should be worrying about—and preparing to deal with—is the potential for an endless three-way civil war in Iraq. With Sunni, Shia and Kurds fighting one another, it would look something like the civil war in Syria—on steroids.

    Of course, back during the supposedly glorious days of Iraq War II, no one could have predicted that the quagmire in Mesopotamia would turn out to be favorable to Iran. Right?

    In response, I give you James Jay Carafano in 2010 (here)…

    Here is what we know for sure. 1) Given the state of Iraq in 2006, the country is in a much better place today that any reasonable observer then dared hope. 2) Iraq is better off than it was in the age of Saddam. Now the country has a future, and it rests in the hands of its people. Bonus: The world is rid one of its most dangerous and bloodthirsty thugs. Yes, it was a heavy price. Freedom rarely comes cheap. 3) The surge worked. The surge never promised a land of “milk and honey.” It just promised to break the cycle of continuous, unrelenting violence, to give the new Iraqi political process a chance, and to allow the Iraqis time to build the capacity for their own security. It did that. 4) Things didn’t turn out the way Bush planned. But the vision — a free Iraq without Saddam — was achieved. Remember, things didn’t turn out the way FDR planned either. He said all the troops would be out of Europe in two years.

    By the way, Carafano wrote the above column on August 19th, the day that Obama announced that all combat operations would end by August 31st, with the full withdrawal scheduled for December 2011 (here). And after that, the attacks started to ramp up again.

    Here is my point – if Carafano said that “this is the way history works” in 2010, acting like he was OK with what Obama was doing, then wasn’t Carafano just as wrong then as he thinks Obama is now (and personally, I think Obama was correct, as opposed to Carafano)?

  • Continuing, I came across this real whopper from Dr. Ben Carson (here – page 2)…

    Over the past year, I have learned a great deal about the press in America. It is not uniformly unfair with nefarious agendas, but a significant portion is. One of the best ways to determine which news organizations are objective and which have an agenda is to keep a scorecard that lists both electronic and print media. When evaluating a story, check off whether it is concentrating on factual reporting or demonization. If there is controversy, determine whether both points of view are considered. If major stories of a political nature are ignored or barely mentioned, that should raise suspicions about objectivity.

    You know what? I think Carson is actually onto something here. So, following up on his idea of a “score card,” I came up with the following…

    Story Demonization Factual Reporting
    Here Carson compares gay men and women to bestiality supporters. Bestiality is abhorrent to the gay community and just about every other life form that I know of (duuuh!).
    Here The VA scandal is “A gift from God” according to Carson. The VA scandal is a national bipartisan tragedy, owing primarily to the huge burden of treating our military personnel fighting two wars begun under the prior administration (not a criticism of our military in any way, of course – not their problem that Bushco was a gang of thugs who were asleep on 9/11).
    Here Carson compared the Affordable Care Law to “slavery.” Over 8 million (and counting) citizens of this country now have access to health care, many of whom had no access before.
    Here Carson once said that Russian President Vladimir Putin was right to call America “godless.” Why should we take seriously supposed lessons in morality from a thug who annexed Crimea away from Ukraine (you can go in many other directions here, I’ll admit).
    Here Carson invokes Lenin (no, not the Beatle) in attacking the Affordable Care Law. Sigh – is this really necessary anymore?

    Of course, if you want to do any research about Carson on your own, dear reader (trying to determine “factual reporting” vs. “demonization” without a visual aid, even the one as primitive as I provided), you can always just click here.

  • Update 6/14/14: Turning to Philadelphia-area stuff, it looks like a SEPTA transit strike is underway. I’m not totally familiar with all of the issues, though it apparently involves pension contributions and cost-of-living increases for transit workers (have to read more about it, as they say). It also looks like our illustrious governor, Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett, is going to ask Obama to appoint an executive-level commission, or something, to look into the matter, meaning that the striking workers will have to return to their jobs for a minimum of 240 days.

    I’m noting this particularly because of the following (here)…

    Bucks County Commissioner Charles H. Martin, who serves on SEPTA’s board of directors, said he was not aware of any plans by Bucks officials to handle potential traffic headaches.

    “Frankly, I don’t know what we could do,” he said.

    He said most people employed by the county and working in the county seat of Doylestown already drive to work, and would be unaffected by a Regional Rail strike.

    I know this may be hard for Mr. “I Have A Semi-Open Mind” to comprehend, but not all of the residents of Bucks County work in Doylestown (facepalm).

    Here’s a thought – why not try to encourage businesses to arrange staggered shifts for their employees or set up/encourage telecommuting or flex time options? Do anything you can to try and alleviate further traffic problems that may result from the strike!

    God, what a maroon (Update 6/16/14 – Hopefully, though, the strike won’t be an issue based in part on this)…

  • Finally (and returning to Fix Noise), I give you the following here

    This week, the president is speaking and acting on the issue of student loans for higher education. He appears to truly believe that a college education is important and is taking executive action to help students pay for their education. This seems like a straightforward feel-good issue…except there is a painful irony hiding behind the president’s words and actions.

    A closer look at the president’s Department of Education, sadly, reveals an elitist streak when it comes to higher education. At the same time that the president is speaking grandly about helping students pay for college, his education department is moving forward on a regulation that would severely limit the opportunity for college for a certain type of student — those attending non-traditional, private-sector colleges.

    There’s a hell of a lot of “red meat” and “dog whistle” language in what I suppose is a column that’s primarily an editorial as opposed to actual news (Number 44 is “elitist” and “classist,” etc., whatever the hell that means).

    I suppose this Jean Card person from Fox is responding to this news story (including the following)…

    The Obama administration is proposing to tighten oversight of for-profit colleges through new rules that seek to limit how much debt students can amass in career-training programs.

    The proposal, announced Friday, is the administration’s second try at regulations setting standards for what colleges must do to ensure that graduates of career programs get “gainful employment.”

    The first gainful employment initiative, debated from 2009 to 2011, spawned a huge campaign by for-profit colleges to block new regulation. The colleges, supported by many congressional Republicans and some Democrats, said then that they had been unfairly targeted and that the initiative would hurt low-income students.

    Obama administration officials said they were trying to protect those students from low-quality programs that would saddle them with too much debt.

    The Education Department issued a rule in 2011 that set standards for loan-repayment rates and the ratio of graduates’ debt to income. Programs that failed the tests could be disqualified from participation in the federal student aid, which would essentially shut them down. But in 2012, a federal judge blocked major provisions of that rule, forcing the department to start over.

    The new proposal jettisons the repayment-rate metric. Instead, it would require that the estimated loan payments of typical graduates not exceed 20 percent of discretionary income or 8 percent of total annual income.

    If someone has a principled disagreement with what Obama is trying to do here, then I honestly get that. I do support the president on this, I wish to emphasize, because I don’t see anyone else out there lifting a finger to try in rein in student debt.

    More information on this is available from here, including the following…

    A year ago, President Obama set a national goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. But because of the high costs of college, about two-thirds of graduates take out loans with an average student debt of over $23,000. This debt is particularly burdensome for graduates who choose to enter lower-paying public service careers, suffer setbacks such as unemployment or serious illness, or fail to complete their degree.

    To ensure that Americans can afford their student loan payments, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act gives student borrowers new choices in how they repay their loans. The initiative was developed by the Middle Class Task Force chaired by Vice President Biden, and it will expand the income-based repayment plan for federal student loans that was put in place last summer. More than 1.2 million borrowers are projected to qualify and take part in the expanded IBR program.

    Under this new law, students enrolling in 2014 or later can choose to:

    Limit Payments to 10 Percent of Income: Borrowers choosing the income-based repayment plan will pay no more than 10 percent of their income above a basic living allowance, reduced from 15 percent under current law. The basic living allowance varies with family size and is set at 150 percent of the poverty line, currently equaling about $16,500 for a single individual and $33,000 for a family of four.

    ◦More than 1 million borrowers would be eligible to reduce their monthly payments.

    ◦The payment will be reduced by more than $110 per month for a single borrower who earns $30,000 a year and owes $20,000 in college loans, based on 2009 figures.

    Forgive Any Remaining Debt after 20 Years, or after 10 Years for Those in Public Service: Borrowers who take responsibility for their loans and make their monthly payments will see their remaining balance forgiven after 20 years of payments, reduced from 25 years in current law.

    ◦Public service workers – such as teachers, nurses, and those in military service – will see any remaining debt forgiven after 10 years.

    Fully Funded by Student Loan Reforms: These new initiatives are funded by ending the current subsidies given to financial institutions that make guaranteed federal student loans. Starting July 1, all new loans will be direct loans delivered and collected by private companies under performance-based contracts with the Department of Education. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, ending these wasteful subsidies will free up nearly $68 billion for college affordability and deficit reduction over the next 11 years.

    And by the way, let’s not forget that the ridiculous practice of paying subsidies to financial institutions for basically nothing as part of the student loan process was ended by congressional Democrats in March 2010, with nary a single Republican voting in support (here).

    Oh, and speaking of the “respectful opposition,” this tells us that Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao did what he does best, and that was to launch yet another filibuster, this time of the student loan legislation sponsored by Dem Senator Elizabeth Warren (“come back louder” indeed).

    And things are no better in the House, of course; I give you the following…

    Congressman Fitzpatrick votes to protect the ultra-wealthy and votes against making college more affordable for America’s students and families

    Today, Congressman Fitzpatrick voted with Republicans to block H.R. 4582 “Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act,” the House version of Senator Warren’s companion bill that would allow students to refinance their loans at much lower rates than they are currently paying today.

    Congressman Fitzpatrick’s Republican budget charges students $40 billion more in loan interest, in order to pay for more tax breaks for those who need help the least, like special interests and the wealthiest Americans. Today’s vote was the latest in a record that clearly places the interests of banks above those of students.

    “Once again, Congressman Fitzpatrick gave us a clear view of his priorities when he voted with the Republicans against a bill that would lower the cost of education for students. Congressman Fitzpatrick has no problem standing up for tax breaks for the bankers and special interests he is supposed to regulate as a member of the House Financial Services Committee–but when it comes to helping Bucks County students and their families pay for college, Fitzpatrick turns his back on them” Strouse said.

    Strouse added, “Congressman Fitzpatrick continues to vote to protect the interests of wealthy bankers, while ignoring the needs of the middle-class. If America is going to succeed in a 21st century economy, we need to have the best-educated, best-trained workforce possible, and Congressman Fitzpatrick voting against making college more affordable for students in Pennsylvania’s 8th District is exactly the kind of representation we do not need in Washington.”

    ###

    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 Strouse in his campaign against Mikey the Beloved (and stand up on this among many other important issues), please click here.


  • Friday Mashup (5/23/14)

    May 23, 2014

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  • This from Fix Noise tells us the following…

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

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

    The skeptics turned out to be right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    In addition, I give you the following from kos here

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

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

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

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

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

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

    I think those numbers are also borne out by this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Update: Uh, yep.

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

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

    Are you disgusted by that? Good. Click here.


  • Friday Mashup (3/28/14)

    March 28, 2014

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  • (Image from satiricalpolitical.com…)

    So, according to Repug Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, it looks like President Obama is granting “de facto amnesty,” or something, to illegal (undocumented – whatever) immigrants here.

    I wonder if that’s why Number 44 is nearing his 2 millionth deportation (here)? And I think this has a typically “inside-out” corporate media headline on the subject that basically tells us that, yes, U.S. House Repugs in particular are being intransigent a-holes on the issue (as with so many other matters of consequence).

  • Also, I really don’t want to waste a lot of time on this, but for some reason, the otherwise highly sensible Chris Hayes decided to grant a forum to Americans for Prosperity’s (and Koch-ette) Jennifer Stefano here, with predictable results (more of Stefano’s nonsense can be accessed at the fifth bullet from here).
  • Next, I realize that I should utterly ignore conservative quota hire Jennifer Rubin of the WaPo, but alas, I cannot totally – I give you the following from here

    I’ve got no problem with third-party money or with billionaires giving money directly to campaigns; neither do most Republicans. But it is Democrats who brought up the Koch complaint and who have been impugning the Koch brothers. In 2010 Democrats attacked the nefarious and non-existent “foreign money” from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; now it’s two businessmen.

    See how Rubin is trying to morph the dreaded “conventional wisdom” from “Oh, aren’t the Dems a bunch of crybabies for complaining about waay too much untraceable money in our political campaigns” to “Well, guess what? That money never existed anyway.”?

    Oh, and by the way, she’s wrong in either case. As Think Progress notes here (from October 2010)…

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has created a large presence in the small, oil-rich country of Bahrain. In 2006, the Chamber created an internal fundraising department called the “U.S.-Bahrain Business Council” (USBBC), an organization to help businesses in Bahrain take advantage of the Chamber’s “network of government and business relationships in the US and worldwide.

    With each of these foreign board members to the USBBC contributing at least $10,000 annually, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce raises well over $100,000 a year in money from foreign businesses through its operation in Bahrain.

    Like the USBBC, the (U.S. India Business Council) generates well over $200,000 a year in dues for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce from foreign businesses.

    Another foreign chamber, like the Abu Dhabi AmCham, which includes American firms and Esnaad, a subsidiary of the state-run Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, claims that it is a “dues paying member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and part of the global network of American Chambers of Commerce.”

    And in an update to the Think Progress post, we learn the following…

    The US Chamber of Commerce has responded to this post in a statement to the Politico’s Ben Smith. The Chamber’s Tita Freeman did not dispute that the Chamber’s 501(c)(6) organization running attack ads receives foreign funds, and simply claimed, “We have a system in place” to prevent foreign funding for the Chamber’s “political activities.”

    Uh huh…

    As far as I’m concerned, the reality of the foreign funds used by the “U.S.” Chamber of Commerce for election purposes (unaccounted-for foreign funds, inasmuch as it’s impossible to find out just how much was spent for particular races on behalf of particular candidates) utterly puts the lie as far as I’m concerned to claims such as the one made by Mike Fitzpatrick that the Dems outspent him in the 2010 campaign in which he unseated incumbent U.S. House Rep Patrick Murphy. Can someone honestly tell me how much Fitzpatrick received in funding from the “U.S.” Chamber (a figure verified by an independent accounting firm)?

    I’ll have something else to say about Mikey the Beloved later, by the way.

  • Further, did you know that Greg Gutfeld of Fix Noise apparently wrote a book (here)? Why, color me shocked (something called “Not Cool: The Hipster Elite and Their War On You”…as always, Gutfeld and his kind have to invent a conflict with a real or imagined enemy – here)…

    Someone named Kyle Smith at Rupert Murdoch’s Vanity Rag tells us the following…

    Gutfeld finds that cool warps everything. In 2012, for instance, Zuckerberg’s Facebook not only didn’t pay any net federal income tax but was actually due a refund of about $430 million. Why? Because the company (lawfully) deducted the stock options it issues to Facebook employees, many of them now deliriously wealthy because of those options. If Exxon or Koch Industries had managed that, someone might have noticed.

    But because it was Facebook — a company that oozes cool out its pores — it was a one-day story that people forgot about. “If this company were something that actually made something in a factory or a field,” writes Gutfeld, “it would be roundly condemned by every single media hack on the planet.”

    Never mind that companies like Exxon and Koch supply the energy without which Facebook wouldn’t work: They’re not cool.

    Um…unless Exxon and the Kochs have suddenly made a splash in renewables, then that really isn’t true, is it (here)?

    Smith also blames “the left” for a ban of plastic supermarket bags in San Francisco that supposedly caused a 46 percent increase in deaths from foodborne illness – here is a response.

    But wait, there’s more…

    Now a few groovy artisanal types are sounding the alarm about vaccines, with predictably depressing results.

    A year ago, a Florida county saw its first death from whooping cough in decades. The victim, a baby, had parents who decided not to vaccinate.

    Vaccines, DDT, genetically modified foods — all these things are unnatural or impure, hence suspect.

    “Purity is a big thing with the coolerati,” notes Gutfeld. “But, like cool, it exists separate from the notions of good and evil. Pure sugar is delicious. How about pure cocaine? How about pure horses–t?” That depends: Is it locally sourced?

    Isn’t that simply precious?

    Yes, unfortunately, there is definitely a bit of anti-vaccine hysteria out there. But blaming us lefties for it is to assign fault in the wrong place.

    whooping-cough_200px
    And that is because it is very unlikely that you will see Jenny McCarthy, a leading anti-vaccine proponent, appearing on MSNBC any time soon (as noted here, just consider “the usual suspects” once again, the people who hate science generally anyway).

    It looks like Gutfeld is trying to make a name for himself as the Foxies’ latest attack dog in its increasingly futile efforts to gin up phony outrage over whatever real or alleged controversy happens to spring into the depraved mind of Roger Ailes or other culprits. However, I would argue that it’s really hard to sustain a career even in the wingnutosphere by trying to subsist on table scraps from Glenn Beck and Alex Jones (and probably Rusty and Drudge too).

  • Also, I came across this item in which Repug U.S. House Rep Lamar Smith, a particularly notorious climate change denier (at least when it comes to whether or not human activity is to blame), decried $700,000 that the National Science Foundation allegedly spent on a global warming musical (and did I mention that Smith is in charge of the House Science Committee?).

    Maybe this really happened and maybe it didn’t, but here is what I know…I checked the web site for the National Science Foundation (here), and I’ve spent a few minutes trying to locate this award on their site, and I can’t find it.

    And it’s not as if Smith doesn’t already have a history of making incendiary charges, as noted here.

  • Continuing, I give you the following via Rich Lowry, on the whole Hobby Lobby/Conestoga Wood thing about companies not wanting to provide health care coverage for “conscience” reasons…

    Hobby Lobby is trying to fend off the federal government via the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law that Democrats used to support before they realized how inconvenient it would prove to the Obama-era project of running roughshod over moral traditionalists. The act says that government can’t substantially burden someone’s exercise of religion unless there’s a compelling governmental interest at stake and it’s pursued by the least restrictive means.

    I don’t have anything particularly brilliant to add here, but I only wanted to point out that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was originally passed and signed into law in 1996, with the following intended purpose…

    The Religious Freedom Restoration Act applies to all religions, but is most pertinent to Native American religions that are burdened by increasing expansion of government projects onto sacred land. In Native American religion the land they worship on is very important. Often the particular ceremonies can only take place in certain locations because these locations have special significance.[5] This, along with peyote use are the main parts of Native American religions that are often left unprotected.

    So, as a pretext for allowing business to pick and choose health care coverage for their employees based on their moral sensibilities, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood are seeking protection by citing a law that was originally passed to allow Native Americans to use peyote and mescaline during religious ceremonies.

    So then, I guess drugs are OK, but for conservatives, protection against the dreaded (in their minds, anyway) “lady parts” isn’t.

    Hmmm…

    I think this is going to be another ruling that The Supremes slide under the proverbial door as they’re getting ready to leave Washington, D.C. in a couple of months. However, if they end up ruling on the side of faith instead of existing statute (a 50-50 bet as far as I’m concerned), then employers will be able to offer (or not offer) any health insurance that they want. Which will end up hastening the extinction of the whole “employer-based health insurance” model, which was bound to happen anyway.

    And, by default, that means that anyone seeking coverage will have no choice but to go to an exchange. Which will probably provide better and more affordable coverage, truth be told.

    And 10 years or so from now, the next generation is going to wonder what the fuss was all about. And given that, how many of them will actually vote for Republicans, who are overwhelmingly responsible for the fuss in the first place?

    (And by the way, I thought this was some interesting “food for thought” on this subject.)

  • Finally, I checked into Mikey the Beloved’s U.S. House web page to find out what he’s doing when it comes to Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!, and I found these items…

    Fitzpatrick_Economy_Jobs_0327
    The bottom link tells us that Mikey apparently appeared at a job fair, which is positive; no word, though, on any discussion he may have had with any of the attendees. And in the job fair story, we learn that Mikey has supported 25 “jobs” bills.

    Really?

    Since there’s no further information on these “jobs” bills from his web page, I navigated to the Republican Party web site to try and learn more. And this takes us to the party’s “jobs” page.

    Which contains no actual links to actual jobs bills, of course.

    On the other hand, this tells us of legislative accomplishments by congressional Democrats (and the typical Republican Party obstruction is duly noted).

    The only way this nonsense is going to stop is by voting in a Democratic congressional majority once more. And to help get that done, click here.


  • Wednesday Mashup (3/12/14)

    March 12, 2014

    Obama_KGB_CT

  • This graphic appeared in last Sunday’s edition of the Bucks County Courier Times accompanying a typically ridiculous letter on their ultra-wingnutty Op-Ed page accusing President Obama of instituting a “KGB” of sorts in this country; to the extent that I could determine anything logical in the letter, it also mentioned BENGHAZI!!!, the IRS “scandal,” Hillary Clinton, and all the other “dog-whistle” conservative nonsense.

    At first glance, it looks like Obama is depicted as a Nazi, wearing a typical “brown shirt.” However, if you look closer, I suppose you can detect the Obama logo emblazoned where a hammer and sickle might otherwise appear.

    And if that paper ever depicts a Republican politician in that manner, I’ll send them a check for $20.

    And I sincerely believe that I will NEVER, EVER have to make good on that wager (at least it looks like Ben Carson is on board based on this – heh).

  • Next, it looks like, following in the wake of Bernard Goldberg and probably a few other high-profile journos of dubious ability, Sharyl Attkisson is going to bolt from “The Tiffany Network,” with the ever-worn claim of “liberal bias” as an alleged excuse here.

    Gee, you don’t think it could have anything to do with her book that is about to come out echoing a similar theme, could it? Naaah.

    With that in mind, let’s review the following:

  • Attkisson received an award from a “birther” organization at the CPAC freak show two years ago (here – other CBS alums cried foul, for the record…she probably should have quit right then and there).
  • She was also behind an error-ridden report on the “new Solyndras” in January 2012 (here).
  • She was behind another dubious report here, this time on the Affordable Care Law.
  • Here, she allowed Gramps McCain to say that the stimulus wasn’t, in fact, a stimulus package, but a spending package; I realize that that’s just a right-wing talking point that has nothing to do with reality, since you have to spend in a wise, targeted manner to invest in a way that makes a difference, a feat that is apparently impossible for any Republican politician on the national level.
  • For the record, more on Attkission is here.

    I guess all of this is just positioning for a gig at Fix Noise; if so, she’d better have a bottle of Peroxide handy, as well as an ample supply of tight skirts allowing her to show off plenty of leg (that’s how Roger Ailes prefers his “anchor blondes,” after all).

    Update 4/11/14: Yep, she must be vying for a prime-time gig with this (watch out, Hannity!).

  • In addition, this tells us that it is possible that Wisconsin (under Repug governor Scott Walker) is anticipated to have a $1 billion surplus by June 2015 (I read about this at The Weakly Standard…fair is fair).

    Of course, you don’t also hear that the surplus is built on a structural deficit and the state is 28th in job creation nationwide (that and more can be read from here).

    This made me contemplate the potential electoral fortunes of PA’s own Repug governor, and that would be none other than Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett.

    As noted from here, Corbett’s radio ad claims that he’s “saved us over a billion in taxes, reduced the size of state government to its lowest in 50 years, eliminated $43 million in state cars and created 150,000 new private sector jobs.”

    That is a highly deceptive claim. As Factcheck points out…

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Pennsylvania has added a net 138,300 private sector jobs between January 2011, when Corbett took office, and December 2013, the latest figures available. The December figures are projected, and Corbett’s office said it looked at the numbers from January 2011 to November 2013, which show a net gain of 151,100 private sector jobs.

    Corbett’s comments focus on private sector job growth. During his time in office, the number of government jobs has declined by a net 42,000 (most from local government jobs). When looking at all jobs, including government jobs, Pennsylvania has gained 96,300 total jobs under Corbett – a 1.7 percent job growth over three years, ranking the state 46th in total job growth among the states.

    And as far as Corbett’s scheme to make the poor work or else they won’t qualify for Medicaid expansion, he appears to have backtracked on that a bit (probably because even Corbett sees his awful poll numbers), but it all appears to be in a review period based on this Kaiser article (of course – with said “review period” timed so it would have less of an impact on the gubernatorial election).

    If you want to put an end to this nonsense (and why wouldn’t you?), then click here to support Tom Wolf or click here to support Allyson Schwartz, two Democratic candidates for governor, either of who would be better than the incumbent (more is here).

    Update 3/13/14: Good for Allyson Schwartz for this.

  • Further (and turning to The Daily Tucker), I give you the following from here

    An American citizen has been unjustly imprisoned by the communist government of Cuba for over four years. He has lost over 100 lbs, according to his wife, and has pleaded for the U.S. government to come to his aid. He suffers depression as his days consist of being locked in a small cell with two other inmates in a military prison.

    His crime? Alan Gross dared to hand out satellite phones to Cubans whose government prevents them from having significant contact with the outside world. The Obama administration’s failure to secure Gross’s release is unacceptable. The American people should demand the State Department take immediate action to bring this man home.

    Despite attempts by legislators and other U.S. representatives to secure Gross’s release, and appeals to outside forces such as the Vatican, the president has not commissioned an official envoy to Cuba.

    I’m not giving Obama a total pass here, but I would say that the biggest reason for the lack of a Cuba envoy is the fact that our politicians (primarily Obama’s “loyal opposition”) refuse to settle the matter of either trying or releasing the Guantanamo Bay inmates and giving the whole damn thing back to Cuba.

    Or, as former U.S. envoy to Cuba Michael Parmly (from ’05-’08) said here

    The U.S. base is a “historic anomaly” even though the two countries have not had diplomatic relations since 1961, Parmly wrote.

    “The current partisan tensions on the (Capitol) Hill ensure that it would be an uphill climb, but it is the thesis of this paper that a similar bold step, akin to the Panama Canal, is called for regarding Guantanamo,” he said, citing that 1977 U.S. return of the waterway to Panama as a precedent.

    Parmly suggests that, even with the return of Guantanamo to Cuba, the U.S. could still run a jail there, or something. I don’t know how that would be possible, but I think Parmly is on the right track.

    Besides, the Repugs generally go crazy whenever Number 44 (or anyone else who isn’t them, apparently) engages with Cuba in any way. This tells us about their reaction to Obama’s handshake with Cuban President Raul Castro, and this tells us about the outcry over a Beyonce/Jay Z trip to the island.

    So yeah, here’s a wild, crazy thought – try actually working with Number 44 and the envoy appointed last year, Clifford Sloan (here), to try and shut down Guantanamo first. How can we have an envoy to Cuba who isn’t a total figurehead as long as it stays open?

  • Continuing (and turning to Fix Noise), I give you something truly obnoxious from Todd Starnes here

    Matthew Morgan was crumpled on the pavement lying in a pool of blood. Bones had torn through his flesh. His left foot was nearly severed. As he lapsed into and out of consciousness, a jarring thought crossed the Baptist preacher’s mind: he no longer had health insurance.

    “That was one of the first thoughts I had after I got hit,” Matthew told me in a telephone interview from his home in Indianola, Miss.

    Matthew is a bi-vocational pastor. He ministers to two congregations and works a full-time job at the Indianola Pecan House. The 27-year-old is married and has four children. His oldest is five, the youngest is one. And on Feb. 17th he became a victim of ObamaCare.

    If nothing else, this proves that no commentary is too vile for the media wing of the Republican Party (giving these cretins the benefits of the doubt for now when it comes to the facts, but if more is found out, including anything different, I’ll definitely update this post).

    As the story tells us, Morgan and his family live in Mississippi. And according to the story…

    The Morgans tried to sign up for ObamaCare on the Healthcare.gov website, but Matthew said that was a fruitless effort.

    “We couldn’t get on the website,” he said. “That was one of our issues as we shopped around.

    For that, Morgan should blame Repug Governor Phil Bryant, not President Obama. Because, as noted here

    Under the Affordable Care Act, every state has until the end of this year to set up an insurance exchange where legal residents can shop for health coverage. The goal is to help consumers shop for value while forcing insurers to compete in an open marketplace. To make coverage more affordable, the act requires everyone to join the risk pool―and it subsidizes coverage for those who can’t pay full fare. To give states the greatest possible flexibility, the law offers gives them three ways to develop their exchanges. A state can (1) set up an independent exchange that meets national standards, (2) develop an exchange in partnership with the federal government, or (3) stand aside and let the feds handle the job.

    For all their resistance to Obamacare, Mississippi politicians have long favored the first option. With the support of former Gov. Haley Barbour, Mississippi’s Republican insurance commissioner, Mike Chaney, started developing an exchange called “One, Mississippi” before Congress even passed the Affordable Care Act. Since the act took effect three years ago, Chaney has won a federal grant to complete the plan and has even started promoting “One, Mississippi” online as “an easy-to-use, easy-to-understand marketplace for comprehensive medical insurance, where individuals and small businesses can comparison shop for health benefits.”

    But unlike his predecessor, (Bryant) has worked to kill “One, Mississippi” in the cradle. To meet federal standards, state insurance exchanges must link consumers not only to private insurance plans but also to safety net programs―Medicaid for the poor and federally discounted private policies for people earning up to 400% of the federal poverty level. Medicaid falls under the governor’s jurisdiction, so Bryant simply refused to link the program to the “One Mississippi” exchange. Besides cutting the neediest people out of the exchange, his ploy flouted national law, forcing federal officials to reject the whole proposal. “With a lack of support from your Governor and no formal commitment to coordinate from other State agencies,” HHS wrote in in a letter to the insurance commissioner last week, “we do not see a feasible pathway to conditionally approving a State-based Exchange in Mississippi for 2014.”

    Oh, and Starnes ends his column with the following (conflating Morgan with the foul, lying Koch Brothers – nice touch)…

    Matthew Morgan is a victim of ObamaCare – one of many. But Democrats would like you to believe that people like Matthew are liars. Those are Harry Reid’s words.

    I’d rather put my trust in a Baptist preacher than a leader of political party that booed God.

    So much stoo-pid, so little time (here)…

  • Finally (and sticking with health care), this tells us that the U.S. House Repugs finally did something that once seemed unattainable, and that was to vote for the 50th time to repeal the Affordable Care Law.

    And that means that I’m now behind on my count of the 50 U.S. House Repugs I intend to profile in response, so here are the following updates:

    religious-hate-mike-pompeo
    # 48 – Mike Pompeo (KS – 04)

    Actually, after reading more about Pompeo, I realized that I should have profiled him MUCH earlier than now, but better late than never…

  • Here, he was called “The Koch Bros. puppet in the war on children.”
  • And as noted here, that’s not surprising in the least, considering that he made his fortune off a Koch-backed company.
  • His only public policy experience is with a Koch-related outfit (same Think Progress link as above).
  • Also the Kochs were by far the biggest contributors to his 2010 U.S. House campaign (same Think Progress link as above).
  • Pompeo also hired an ex-Koch Bros. lobbyist as his chief of staff (here).
  • Oh, and he made the news recently when he wanted Edward Snowden off the bill at the South-by-Southwest conference here (ummm, SXSW is in Texas, and Pompeo allegedly represents a congressional district in Kansas…???).
  • reindeer-talk-or-high-on-glue
    #49 – Kerry Bentivolio (MI – 11)

    This guy is truly unique, I must admit, ending up in the House seat formerly held by “Mad Thad” McCotter until McCotter ran into that little problem with the petition signatures in his run for governor (here – Bentivolio is a veteran, though; I’ll give him that much).

  • Tim Bos, who was Bentivolio’s Re-Election Field Director, basically took the occasion of the retirement of House Dem John Dingell (the longest-serving member of Congress) to engage in some typical partisan BS here (with Bentivolio trying to pretend that Bos only holds a minor position, or something – please).
  • Bentivolio didn’t hold a single town hall during the August congressional recess last year (noted here…I remember how the wingnuts in these parts went crazy when former rep Patrick Murphy held “tele”-town halls, also employed since by Mikey the Beloved, without a face-to-face presence…I guess rules are for little people, and Democrats of course).
  • He also wants to take funds that should be spent on road repair in Michigan and give them to Republican legislators here (nice).
  • His own brother said Bentivolio was “mentally unbalanced” here (too funny).
  • He called Obama impeachment “a dream come true” here.
  • And just for background info purposes, this tells us that Bentivolio is a former Santa Claus and reindeer farmer (ho ho ho).
  • kelly_pa3

    #50 – Mike Kelly (PA – 03)

    And to round out the list, I thought I would return to PA…

  • Kelly was all about cutting spending until it came to cutting $4 billion in subsidies for the top five oil companies (here) – and did I mention that Kelly’s money comes from car dealerships, and he married a natural gas heiress? (typical)
  • He said here that people would still get their Medicare/Medicaid access and Social Security checks in the event of a government shutdown (uh, no).
  • He also said Obama was a “black president who divides us on race” here (good one).
  • He compared the so-called birth control “mandate” in the Affordable Care Law to Pearl Harbor and 9/11 here (too precious).
  • As noted here, Kelly played the supposed IRS “scandal” for all he thinks it’s worth at a hearing while questioning IRS commissioner Steven Miller (and as I and others have pointed out many, many times, the only politically-oriented group that actually lost its preferred status was a progressive one in California).
  • This tells us that, with the election of David Jolly to a U.S. House seat over Democrat Alex Sink in Florida, the Repugs believe that they’re well-positioned for this fall’s congressional battles, in which they seek to hold onto their leadership in the U.S. House and perhaps (perish the thought) take over the U.S. Senate (even though Jolly won a solidly Republican district).

    I don’t see how we’ll be able to outraise them (love to be wrong), and the 2010 redistricting in their favor continues to pay dividends. So that leaves campaigning on the issues, foremost of which is the Affordable Care Law.

    And the fact that these idiots have voted 50 times to repeal a law that, to date, has allowed about 4.2 million people to sign up for health insurance with solid coverage for manageable premiums, as noted here (aside from the other idiotic Capitol Hill Republican obstruction taking place) should be the biggest issue of all.


  • Friday Mashup (1/17/14)

    January 17, 2014
  • In an otherwise sensible column, Andrew Taylor of the AP inflicts the following here –and of course, since we’re talking about a “villager” like Taylor, the topic MUST be about our supposedly “crushing” debt burden (wrong) and how we’ll have to CUTUCUTCUTCUTCUTCUTCUT so others will have to feel the pain that Taylor won’t have to worry about ever feeling himself on this…

    Excluded are the giant benefit programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps that run on autopilot and are increasingly driving the government deeper into debt.

    Even though the programs that Taylor mentions only account for about 45 percent of federal spending, as noted here.

    And I realize that “run on autopilot” is wingnut code, to say nothing of the fact that it’s wrong anyway since funding legislation still has to be passed by Congress and signed into law by the president; how else can these programs be administered?

    Oh, and as far as supposedly teetering on the edge of a debt apocalypse (or something), I give you Professor Krugman here.

    This type of wankery isn’t unusual for Taylor, who once claimed that President Obama suffered a “slide” in support in 2010 here without providing any, you know, actual data to support that claim.

  • Next (and sticking with financial matters), I give you yet another bad conservative idea on how to supposedly get our federal fiscal house in order (here)…

    After Congress managed in 1986 to largely accomplish the herculean task of tax reform by eliminating the many deductions, exemptions, and credits, those special tax provisions, like desserts, ultimately proved too tempting, betraying erstwhile commitments to diets and good policy alike. The reform was largely undone over time.

    Even the vaunted ‘86 reform left a few things untouched, some habits just proving too difficult to shed. If certainties are limited to death and taxes, a sub-certainty comes in the form of the mortgage interest deduction (MID), which is like the smoking addiction of the tax code.

    We don’t know exactly what will emerge from tax reform discussions, but supposedly everything is on the table (or chopping block, depending on how you see it). Except the MID of course. Defended as a way to encourage homeownership, one would be hard-pressed to come up with a worse way to accomplish this goal.

    Lather, rinse, repeat (sigh)…

    I’m sick of reading conservatives attack the home mortgage interest deduction. As noted here (quoting a story from Bloomberg News, prior to the 2012 presidential election)…

    Lots of middle class people would be hit hard by that. There is a real political issue here. Give up a mortgage tax deduction (the biggest loophole for the middle class) in order to give trillions of dollars of tax cuts to the rich. It also would make the real estate market much worse because home ownership is subsidized by that deduction.

    I think Romney would lose the suburbs if people understood. Of course, he’ll deny. He wants big tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations and he has a “secret plan” to end the war, I mean to balance the budget.

    Nixon beat George Romney in 1968 primaries, so Mitt became Dick Nixon, just as George Bush II modeled Ronnie Reagan rather than his father. I am tired of Republican “daddy” issues.

    There isn’t a lot that I, as a middle-class homeowner, benefit from when it comes to tax policy and our federal government (except for declining-over-time amounts that we have to pay, which isn’t insignificant I know), but the mortgage interest deduction is definitely one of those benefits (along with deducting state and local taxes; I don’t have a link at the moment, but I’ve seen the idea of getting rid of those deductions floated from conservatives too).

    There’s a reason why Willard Mitt Romney and Mr.-Puppy-Dog-Eyes-With-The-Shiv didn’t touch this with the proverbial ten foot pole. And that’s because they knew that it was a “third rail.”

    However, under the guise of supposedly encouraging “big ideas” or something, I’m sure this will get regurgitated over and over and over, which is why we must be ever vigilant when that happens.

  • Further, it looks like the wingnuts want Rachel Maddow to apologize here for a story saying that a Koch Brothers-affiliated group supported Florida’s totally ridiculous welfare-recipient-drug-testing law; see, the argument is that, because Maddow’s parent employer MSNBC (Microsoft, really) and Comcast, for example, donated to something called the State Policy Network, which counts among its members the Florida Foundation for Government Accountability, then the group is affiliated with Microsoft and Comcast also (hey, if the shoe fits)…

    Well, if this State Policy Network/Florida Foundation for Government Accountability takes money from the Kochs (which doesn’t seem to be in dispute), then what’s the problem with saying that they’re Koch-affiliated?

    Besides, maybe if the Florida Foundation for Government Accountability (which is to say, of course, Charles and David Koch) want to keep a lower profile on this issue (apparently not having the courage of their rotten convictions) then maybe instead of trying to persecute a cable TV personality, they could instead cease and desist from traveling to Georgia, for example, to tell that state how supposedly wonderful Florida’s welfare-recipient-drug-testing law supposedly is (noted here).

  • Continuing, I give you the latest in climate science denialism from Jack Kelly (here)…

    There were more record lows than highs in the United States last year, for the first time since 1993. For the 17th consecutive year, global temperatures were lower than in 1998. Arctic sea ice expanded by about 50 percent, confounding predictions the Arctic would be ice-free by the summer of 2013.

    Oh brother – as noted here in response…

    The Met Office in Britain recently pointed out that there are all sorts of reasons why sea ice extent can bounce around from year to year:

    — temperatures naturally vary from one year to the next ;
    — the amount of cloud can affect the amount of surface melting;
    — summer storms can also break up ice, which can accelerate the melting process;
    — settled conditions can be more conducive to ice forming;
    — winds may act to spread out the ice or push it together.

    Those variables can help explain why sea ice didn’t decline in 2013 as much as it did last year: “In 2012 we saw a record low which was storm which swept through the region in summer, but this year’s weather conditions appear to have been less conducive to ice loss,” noted Ann Keen, a sea ice scientist at the Met Office.

    Since things can vary a fair bit year to year, the Met Office advises looking at longer-term trends. And those are easy to see. There was less Arctic ice, on average, in the 2000s than there was in the 1990s. And there was less ice, on average, in the 1990s than there was in the 1980s.

    Clearly the ice is disappearing. Since 1979, Arctic sea-ice extent has been shrinking by about 4 percent per decade, with summer lows getting about 11 percent smaller each decade. And the volume of Arctic sea ice — which is trickier to measure — also keeps tumbling downward.

    And as long as we’re talking about Kelly, allow me to note that we’re coming up on the ninth anniversary of Kelly’s claim that the Iraq War was “all but won” in February 2005 here (proving among other things, that, like the forces affecting our temperatures, Kelly is an expert at generating hot air and apparently not much else).

  • Finally, this tells us that Repug U.S. Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma will end his term early due to his battle with prostate cancer. I wish him well with this health issue, but before anyone gets carried away with too many hosannas to this guy, I think we should remember the following:

    On the positive side, he said that liberals were honest about the deficit, or something, here (true). He also wanted $1 trillion in defense cuts for the next 10 years (here).

    On the negative side, he said that President Obama wanted more people to be dependent on government because Obama supposedly was (here). He also said here that Obama was “perilously close” to impeachment, without providing evidence of course (here). Coburn also blocked a transportation bill affecting the FAA that could have ended up putting about 80,000 people out of work because trees and bike paths supposedly posed a threat to public safety (here).

    Oh, and there’s also the matter of Coburn’s role in the scheme to pay off the mistress of his now-disgraced fellow Repug Senate colleague John Ensign, which Coburn originally denied, though it came to light later (here).

    He also scuttled a budget deal with Dick Durbin because he wanted an additional $130 billion in Medicare cuts (here). Coburn also made sure that $2 billion was removed from funding health care for first responders (here).

    As noted here

    This bastard voted YES for tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires. He voted YES to exempt them from the estate tax. He voted YES to give these same rich people additional benefits in the form of capital gains tax cuts. Yet, somehow he had the balls to vote NO on taking care of the 9-11 responders who risked everything to respond to the worst terrorist attack ever on American soil on the grounds that it’s too expensive. How can he possibly rationalize this?

    He also helped to block federal flood insurance here, along with an extension of unemployment benefits here (past is prologue, I guess). And he also told a woman distraught at a town hall over her husband’s brain injury that expecting help from the government was “an inaccurate statement,” or something here (nice guy…and of course, Coburn’s sheep-like minions in attendance applauded – somebody elects these fools, people).

    Tom Coburn made his name as someone who supposedly was a prudent fiscal conservative, but who was in fact a heartless shill on behalf of the “pay no price, bear no burden” one percent of this country, with the accompanying media hagiography provided for him by all-too-willing Beltway corporate media stenographers (as well as Number 44 himself, who didn’t do us any favors on Coburn either).

    He merely reinforced, and did his best to accelerate actually, the already ruinous right-wing political realignment and economic inequality of this country. And I’d be hard-pressed to come up a worse possible epitaph than that.


  • Thursday Mashup (3/7/13)

    March 7, 2013
  • Another day, another supposed “scandal” according to Fix Noise (here)…

    President Obama’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency is already running into resistance from the fossil fuel industry over concerns that she would escalate a “war” on oil, coal and natural gas.

    EPA veteran Gina McCarthy was one of three nominees Obama announced at the White House late Monday morning. He also tapped MIT scientist Ernest Moniz to head the Energy Department and Walmart’s Sylvia Mathews Burwell as his next budget chief.

    All will have to undergo Senate confirmation. And McCarthy — given her background and the controversial nature of the agency she wants to lead — could face the toughest screening.

    “Today’s announcement that the president wants Gina McCarthy to serve as the next EPA administrator is a clear indication that the administration will continue a war on affordable energy,” Thomas Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, said in a statement.

    Oh yes, the EPA is so “controversial,” isn’t it? How dare they do their best to ensure that our water is safe to drink, our air is safe to breathe, and our landscapes aren’t hopelessly fouled by toxic waste! Damn tree huggers…

    Oh, and I almost forgot this choice item…

    Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said the nomination makes clear that Obama “wants to continue pursuing an aggressive climate agenda at EPA.”

    I guess “aggressive climate agenda” is wingnut code for making sure that we don’t take a deep breath and end up coughing up a lung as we exhale, in addition to being exposed to airborne particulates that could cause (or exacerbate) asthma, chronic bronchitis or heart disease, among other health concerns (I mean, it has to be that since, according to Inhofe, God has protected us from man-made global warming – really).

    And speaking of Inhofe…well, he once said that “I supported Regina McCarthy’s nomination today because I think she possesses the knowledge, experience, and temperament to oversee a very important office at EPA” (here, in a post that also includes praise of McCarthy from the following other Repugs: former CT governor Jodi Rell, former Ohio U.S. Senator George Voinovich, and Charles Warren, a former top EPA regulator who now represents industries such as steel companies).

    I think McCarthy deserves the benefit of the doubt thus far, though this could end up to be yet another case of the Repugs getting exactly what they want but carrying on with their caterwauling like spoiled brats anyway.

  • Next, I give you the following item based on the recent passing of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez…

    In a longer statement on his website, (Dem U.S. House Rep Jose) Serrano acknowledged that Chavez was a “controversial leader.” The New York lawmaker insisted Chavez helped Venezuela, because he tried to help the poor and disenfranchised. Serrano invited him to visit his district in 2005.

    The Republican National Committee pounced on Serrano’s tweet, issuing a statement that it was “simply insulting that a Democrat congressman would praise the authoritarian ruler Hugo Chavez.” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., told WPLG in Miami that she is “ashamed” by the comments made by Serrano and Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Mass.

    The Florida congresswoman singled out Kennedy because he issued a statement saying his “thoughts and prayers are with President Chavez’s family.” Ros-Lehtinen told the Miami TV station that condolences should go to Venezuelans who came to America to escape the Chavez regime.

    I will acknowledge that Chavez was one of these “one step forward, two or three steps back” kind of guys who rose to power pledging aid to the poor, and he delivered on that a bit, though he also did a poor job of managing his country’s economy as it transitioned from a “bubble to bust” cycle, typical for a country upon which oil remains a key exported commodity. And as Think Progress reminds us here, Chavez also demonized his opposition, attacking the press when it dared to criticize him, and he also helped to cultivate a particularly virulent strain of anti-Semitism.

    However, Ros-Lehtinen has no room to be “ashamed” of anybody when it comes to freedom of speech (and yeah, “Democrat” congressman – funny one, RNC).

    If I were a resident of the Sunshine State, I’d be “ashamed” of her for claiming to care about jobs first and foremost but waging war on those dreaded lady parts instead, along with (of course) tax cuts and trying to overturn those pesky government regulations that are supposedly holding back our “job creators” (here).

    I would also be “ashamed” of her for first blasting Democrats for an anti-terrorism bill in response to the 9/11 Commission recommendations before she (and Steve King, her partner in wingnuttery) voted for the bill anyway (here).

    I would also be “ashamed” of her for supporting tax breaks for Big Oil and Social Security privatization (no evidence that she has ever changed her mind on that – here).

    Oh, and I think Ros-Lehtinen should also be “ashamed” of doing her part to scuttle the International Protecting Girls By Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2010 (a bill which doesn’t even mention family planning or abortion, by the way, as HuffPo’s Amanda Terkel points out here). Or, as Conor Williams of the Washington Post pointed out, “How can Republicans explain efforts to defeat a human rights bill because of $67 million in potential spending while simultaneously pushing for a tax cut deal for wealthy Americans that will add $858 billion to the deficit? Is this at all credible?”

    When it comes to Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and her playmates, if you even have to ask a question like that, chances are that you already know the answer.

  • Continuing, I wanted to point out the following here

    HARRISBURG – They can’t breathe. They don’t bleed. They don’t digest food.

    But, as Mitt Romney famously blurted, corporations are people – at least under the law. In theCitizens United decision in 2010, for instance, the Supreme Court recognized that corporations have the constitutional right of free speech, something most people assumed belonged to actual carbon-based life-forms.

    The court struck down limits on corporate election spending, ruling them the same as banning speech. It helped unleash an estimated $933 million in spending by outside groups and wealthy people in the 2012 presidential race.

    And that was why David Cobb was preaching in a steamy and too-small hotel meeting room at the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit here Friday night, selling the salvation of a constitutional amendment that would restrict rights to “natural persons only,” giving government the power to regulate corporations, and declaring that campaign expenditures are not speech.

    “Corporations are ruling us, as surely as masters once ruled slaves, as surely as kings once ruled subjects,” said Cobb, a former Texas trial lawyer and 2004 Green Party presidential nominee. “We don’t have a functioning democracy in this country. The word we should be using is plutocracy. . . . It really chaps my hide.”

    Cobb is one of the leaders of Move to Amend, a sprawling coalition of lefty groups worried about the corrosive influence of money in politics and intent on upending Citizens United. More than that, Cobb said, the idea of legal personhood gives corporations disproportionate power over the political system.

    I applaud the efforts of Cobb and those who belong to the coalition – it’s a huge fight, but one that must be waged, I know.

    However, I wanted to take a very slight issue with something Cobb said below…

    Move to Amend is gathering force, with more than 272,000 supporters and 175 local affiliates, including one in Pittsburgh. Activists have persuaded 500 city and county governments to pass resolutions of support, including in Philadelphia and Wilkes-Barre.

    The initiative would curb unions’ ability to finance campaigns, too.

    Support crosses political divisions. True-blue New Jersey’s Legislature backed a resolution, as did super-red Montana voters in a referendum – the same day they voted for Romney.

    “We’re true believers,” Cobb said in an interview. “We’re Elmer Gantry. We’re not going to compromise.”

    For the uninitiated, that’s a reference to the book by Sinclair Lewis in which the lead character was a charismatic huckster who once set out to become a lawyer but decided to turn to evangelism instead (played brilliantly by Burt Lancaster in the 1960 movie, for which he won an Academy Award). I’d be a little leery of invoking that kind of a comparison…just sayin’.

  • Further, someone named Michael Warren at The Weakly Standard criticized Bruce Braley, the Dem running to replace Iowa’s Tom Harkin for the latter’s U.S. Senate seat, for Braley’s claim that any proposed Senate budget has been filibustered; Warren says that only a simple majority is needed to pass a budget (here).

    That actually is true, shockingly enough. However, as noted here, the Senate needs to clear the 60-vote threshold to enact the budget (more parliamentary minutiae concerning “the world’s greatest deliberative body”…wonder how the DC punditocracy came up with that, by the way?).

    So that would make Braley partly right after all (and to find out more about Braley, click here).

  • Also, this tells us about the lawsuit that Beef Products, Inc. filed against ABC News, Diane Sawyer, and anyone else under the sun that has had anything to do with the term “pink slime” going viral concerning their meat product; I don’t really care about our supposedly august corporate media facing legal action, nor am I longing to hear another “gee whiz” account of social media in action doing good (though credit should go where it is supposed to, I know), but I do care about how BPI’s product ended up in supermarkets, school kitchens and fast food restaurants.

    And with that in mind, this 2009 New York Times story referenced in the Reuters account tells us the following:

    Eight years ago, federal officials were struggling to remove potentially deadly E. coli from hamburgers when an entrepreneurial company from South Dakota came up with a novel idea: injecting beef with ammonia.

    The company, Beef Products Inc., had been looking to expand into the hamburger business with a product made from beef that included fatty trimmings the industry once relegated to pet food and cooking oil. The trimmings were particularly susceptible to contamination, but a study commissioned by the company showed that the ammonia process would kill E. coli as well as salmonella.

    Officials at the United States Department of Agriculture endorsed the company’s ammonia treatment, and have said it destroys E. coli “to an undetectable level.” They decided it was so effective that in 2007, when the department began routine testing of meat used in hamburger sold to the general public, they exempted Beef Products.

    With the U.S.D.A.’s stamp of approval, the company’s processed beef has become a mainstay in America’s hamburgers. McDonald’s, Burger King and other fast-food giants use it as a component in ground beef, as do grocery chains. The federal school lunch program used an estimated 5.5 million pounds of the processed beef last year alone.

    But government and industry records obtained by The New York Times show that in testing for the school lunch program, E. coli and salmonella pathogens have been found dozens of times in Beef Products meat, challenging claims by the company and the U.S.D.A. about the effectiveness of the treatment. Since 2005, E. coli has been found 3 times and salmonella 48 times, including back-to-back incidents in August in which two 27,000-pound batches were found to be contaminated. The meat was caught before reaching lunch-rooms trays.

    Within the U.S.D.A., the treated beef has been a source of friction for years. The department accepted the company’s own study as evidence that the treatment was effective. School lunch officials, who had some doubts about its effectiveness, required that Beef Products meat be tested, as they do all beef used by the program.

    School lunch officials said that in some years Beef Products testing results were worse than many of the program’s two dozen other suppliers, which use traditional meat processing methods. From 2005 to 2009, Beef Products had a rate of 36 positive results for salmonella per 1,000 tests, compared to a rate of nine positive results per 1,000 tests for the other suppliers, according to statistics from the program. Beef Products said its testing regime was more likely to detect contamination.

    Well, that’s about what you would expect BPI to say, wouldn’t you?

    So who was the U.S.D.A. head who approved the scheme around 2002 to inject ammonia into the beef, leaving it tainted and rendered as “pink slime”? Why, that would be Bushco’s Ann Veneman.

    And who was in charge of the U.S.D.A. in 2007 when the decision was made to exempt Beef Products, Inc. from testing before selling their “Franken meat” to the general public? Why, that would be Bushco’s Mike Johanns (yeah, the same guy who passed that resolution defunding ACORN that was later ruled to be unconstitutional – here and here).

    Oh, and isn’t it just such a coincidence that BPI’s Eldon Roth was a “Top 10” contributor to Johanns during the latter’s career in public life, as noted here?

    Meanwhile, it looks like McDonald’s has ended its association with BPI and its “pink slime” burgers based on this, and we can thank UK celebrity chef Jamie Oliver for that.

    What a shame that we can’t pursue any kind of action against Veneman and Johanns for this stuff (an appropriate sentence would be to force them to eat this garbage, keeping the stomach pumps at the ready if needed).

  • goldberg

  • Finally, I read this from The Doughy Pantload yesterday, and I really had to work hard to compose myself after doing so…

    One thing nearly everybody agrees upon is that the “sequester” is a silly sideshow to the real challenge facing America: unsustainable spending on entitlements. Ironies abound. Democrats, with large support from young people, tend to believe that we must build on the legacy bequeathed to us by the New Deal and the Great Society. Republicans, who marshaled considerable support from older voters in their so-far losing battle against ObamaCare, argue that we need to start fresh.

    Perhaps it’s time for both sides to consider an underappreciated fact of American life: The system we are trying to perpetuate was created for the explicit benefit of the so-called greatest generation, the most coddled and cared for cohort in American history.

    You son of a bitch…

    OK, let me back up and point something out here. As you can note from the rest of this post and what I generally try to do at this site, I often provide multiple links to content in the process of making my case.

    To respond to this contemptible gutter snipe, though, I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to tell you a little bit about my family.

    My father was a World War II veteran who served in Europe for five years before he came home, went to college on the GI bill, and earned a Master’s degree before he began a lengthy and somewhat-high-profile career in government service. My mother was primarily a homemaker, though she also worked as an office manager in the medical field for many, many years (I was tempted to tell her about this garbage from Goldberg, but she’s in frail health and the last thing I want to do is cause some medical problem because of this idiot).

    And if you want to go back even further than that, my grandfather served in World War I. He was a member of the “Bonus March” (you can Google it) and ended up doing anything he possibly could when the Great Depression hit (dig ditches, selling pencils – he and my grandmother had to take on boarders when my mom was a little girl). None of this makes my family and I particularly special, I know.

    Oh yeah, The Great Depression – something Goldberg barely mentions in his ridiculous column. It went on for about 10 years, though it varied across the country. Around the middle of the 1930s it appeared to be letting up (in the days before credit cards, let’s not forget), but somebody came up with the bright idea of “austerity” (Past is Prologue 101) and it all went south again, with things starting to turn around at about 1938 or so (going from my mom’s recollections).

    So what happens when the Depression ends? Why only World War Freaking Two, that’s all (and yes, I know there’s a good argument to be made that that was really the end of the Depression, marking a return to full employment…I get that).

    So let’s jump ahead to 1945 or so (’46, in the case of my parents). Whoever survived the Depression and the war comes home and goes to work creating what will likely turn out to be the greatest run of peacetime industrial productivity and prosperity this country has ever seen, primarily for the “baby boomers” (I guess I’m bringing up the rear on that demographic, as they say).

    Now, I’m not going to buy into this Tom Brokaw “Greatest Generation” hagiography either; notwithstanding what I just pointed out, the men and women of my parents’ era were not beings descended from ivory towers or Doric temples. They were just dumped into inexplicably awful circumstances, showing legendary courage and resolve to be sure, but prone to imperfections, as are we all.

    However, you can rest assured that they were definitely not “the most coddled and cared for cohort in American history” either.

    And I’d like to venture a guess about something – if I were to ask some of them what they thought about what Goldberg said, I think they would probably feel more than a bit of disgust, but then they would derive satisfaction from the fact that they ended up building a way of life that allows a fungible little nematode like Goldberg the freedom to concoct this bile without fear of retribution from a fuhrer, emperor, or some other totalitarian leader.

    In other words, to use a somewhat misinterpreted phrase that grew trite over the last election, my parents “built it.”

    And the pride from that monumental accomplishment is something Goldberg will never, ever know or understand.


  • Friday Mashup (2/15/13)

    February 16, 2013

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  • Never letting dumb stuff like, y’know, facts and actual data get in the way of his talking points (like everyone else in his party apparently), Repug U.S. House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster recently engaged in some name-calling of Number 44 after the State of the Union address on Tuesday (here)…

    I think he’s lying about CEOs — they want to invest in a country that has high-speed rail? Really? Tell me what CEO said that, that cares about high-speed rail,” Shuster said when asked for his thoughts on the speech. “Manufacturers want to invest in a country that has roads that are built, they want the infrastructure to be right for the transportation system, but to say one of the reasons they’re going to invest in America and manufacturing plants is because of high-speed rail is crazy.”

    (Ok everybody, feel free to take a break for a few minutes, since we know what’s coming next…catch up on the laundry or the bills, check the kids’ homework, replace the leaky oil pan in your SUV, get a snack or a cup of coffee…I’ll wait.)

    (Oh, I think Shuster has something else to say now, so let’s resume…)

    “This type of incendiary rhetoric is not my style,” Shuster said at a Chamber of Commerce infrastructure summit after apologizing for his remarks. “I do not think the president is a liar.”

    Later, when asked what he thought of the “fix it first” portion of the speech, Shuster threw his hands up and said, “I started off saying what I shouldn’t have said.”

    In response, I give you the following on the matter of the U.S. and infrastructure here, in which we learn (among other things) the following:

    – China spends 7 percent of its Gross Domestic Product on its infrastructure. India spends 5 percent. The United States spends less than 2 percent. Engineers think the U.S. will have to spend $2.2 trillion over 5 years to bring the overall grade for infrastructure up to an ‘A.
    – Here’s a sobering statistic: more than 4,400 of the nation’s 85,000 aging dams are considered susceptible to failure, according to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials.
    – The investment needed just to maintain the transit system’s current condition and performance is $7,900,000,000 annually over the next five years, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). It would take between $12,900,000,000 and $14,500,000,000 annually to maintain and improve conditions and performance–a need of about $72,000,000,000 over the next five years. Federal, state, and local investment averaged just $5,400,000,000 annually in recent years.
    – America is known for its huge highways, but with few exceptions (London among them) American traffic congestion is worse than western Europe’s. Average delays in America’s largest cities exceed those in cities like Berlin and Copenhagen. Americans spend considerably more time commuting than most Europeans; only Hungarians and Romanians take longer to get to work. More time on lower quality roads also makes for a deadlier transport network. With some 15 deaths a year for every 100,000 people, the road fatality rate in America is 60% above the (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) average; 33,000 Americans were killed on roads in 2010.

    And from here (by T. Peter Ruane, president and chief executive officer of the Washington-based American Road & Transportation Builders Association )…

    Some might wonder: What about that $800 billion stimulus package that was enacted in 2009? Wasn’t that supposed to solve problems such as this? The answer is depressingly simple: Just 6 percent of that money went to transportation infrastructure and states cut their own transportation spending by almost an equivalent amount. It is indeed unfortunate that we haven’t had more of a debate these past four years — a debate over the physical plant of our nation, over the facilities we all rely on for our health and wealth.

    So basically, I don’t know why (aside from stupid, petty partisan politics of course) Shuster or anyone else is quibbling over what President Obama or anyone else has to say about the need to rebuild our country’s infrastructure; money is cheap, and this is the time to spend it and invest in the future.

    I should also point out that “Tiger Beat on the Potomac,” as Esquire’s Charles Pierce astutely refers to Politico, called the story an “apology” from Shuster. To yours truly, however, it looked like nothing of the kind.

  • Next, I should note that there’s a reason why economists should be on the Sunday gab fests more often discussing financial matters as opposed to Beltway media talking heads; Fred Barnes of The Weakly Standard attempts to discuss money matters, and hilarity ensues (here)…

    Obama, though, was on-message (during the State of the Union address), just as he was in his inaugural address three weeks ago. He wants to spend more. He wants the government to do more (except overseas). And he isn’t much worried about the possibility of a debt crisis. He leaves it to Republicans to worry about things like the debt-to-GDP ratio.

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

    (The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities) goes on to advocate another $1.4 trillion in revenue and/or spending cuts, which would bring the debt ratio at the end of the decade back down to around its current level. But the larger message here is surely that for the next decade, the debt outlook actually doesn’t look all that bad.

    True, there are projected problems further down the road, mainly because of the continuing effects of an aging population. But it still comes as something of a shock to realize that at this point reasonable projections do not, repeat do not, show anything resembling the runaway deficit crisis that is a staple of almost everything you hear, including supposedly objective news reporting.

    So you heard it here first: while you weren’t looking, and the deficit scolds were doing their scolding, the deficit problem (such as it was) was being mostly solved. Can we now start talking about unemployment?

    And where exactly did that $1.4 (or so) trillion come from exactly? As noted here (in a post where Mr.-Puppy-Dog-Eyes-With-The-Shiv now embraces the “sequester,” due to cause the pain he professed to oppose on the campaign trail last year)…

    Days before House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) abandoned negotiations with President Obama to advance his failed Plan B, the White House paired a tax increase on the richest Americans with spending cuts of $1.22 trillion over 10 years, including “adopting a new measure of inflation that slows the growth of government benefits, especially Social Security.” Despite Ryan’s claims, the Democrats’ plan contained: $400 billion in savings “from federal health care programs; $200 billion from other so-called mandatory programs, like farm price supports, not subject to Congress’s annual spending bills; $100 billion from military spending; and $100 billion from domestic programs under Congress’s annual discretion.”

    Ryan also reiterated that Republicans won’t support additional revenues to turn off the sequester, noting that the American Taxpayer Relief Act — the last minute law that averted the fiscal cliff — included an increase in taxes on couples making more than $450,000 annually and singles making more than $400,000. “The point is, though, the president got his additional revenues. So that’s behind us,” Ryan said on Sunday.

    The comments represent another retreat for Ryan, who backed Mitt Romney’s proposal to raise revenues by eliminating tax loopholes and deductions for the wealthiest Americans. Those reforms were not included in the American Taxpayer Relief Act and could be part of a package that reforms tax breaks for high-income individuals and corporations, generating “$1 trillion in potential savings over 10 years” — more than enough to replace the sequester.

    But of course, since we’re talking about the Beltway…well, If it isn’t good news for Republicans somehow, then it must be bad news for Democrats, as noted here

    The president mentioned the coming sequester, but Douglas Elmendorf, the director of the Congressional Budget Office, told the Senate’s Committee on the Budget, that he can’t score the proposal to replace the sequester because he hasn’t yet seen “a specific proposal.” The sequester was the president’s idea, though he now suggests it came from Congress. The House has proposed targeted spending cuts that protect defense. Those proposals have gone nowhere in the Senate.

    Yes, the sequester did come from Obama, but Congress voted on it and approved it, with “Man Tan” Boehner saying he got “98 percent” of what he wanted in it here (and maybe this tells us why the proposals have “gone nowhere” in the Senate…because of military push-back, that is).

    And while we continue to dither away over this temporary nonsense, our roads continue to crumble, our bridges continue to wear, and our planet continues to melt.

  • Further, The Doughy Pantload is unintentionally hilarious here yet again…”oh, it’s ‘too trite’ to compare Obama to W.E.B. DuBois and the Repugs to Booker T. Washington…but I will anyway”…

    In an earlier era, Dr. Benjamin Carson’s speech before the National Prayer Breakfast last week would have been a really big deal rather than mere fodder for a brief squall on Twitter and cable news.

    Born in crushing poverty to an illiterate single mother dedicated to seeing her children succeed, Carson became the head of the department of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins medical institutions when he was 33. He’s been a black celebrity role model ever since.

    So what’s the deal with Dr. Carson anyway? As Jonah Goldberg tells us…

    Although much of Carson’s speech focused on personal responsibility, he offered two concrete policy ideas. The first is a flat tax. The Bible endorses the idea, Carson explained. Everyone should tithe — give 10 percent — in good times and bad. It doesn’t have to be 10 percent, he conceded. It’s the principles of proportionality and simplicity that matter.

    I don’t know about the Bible, but as far as Utah is concerned, that state passed a flat tax and quickly ran into funding problems, as noted here (and oh yes, what would our lives be like without another conservative lecture on “personal responsibility”?).

    Continuing…

    Critics complain that the poor guy who puts in $1 will be hurt more than the rich guy who puts in $1 billion. But, Carson asks: “Where does it say you’ve got to hurt the [rich] guy? He just put a billion dollars in the pot. We don’t need to hurt him. It’s that kind of thinking that has resulted in 602 banks in the Cayman Islands.”

    Oh, so it’s the fault of that baaad Kenyan Muslim Socialist in the White House that our august captains of industry have to shelter their booty offshore, isn’t it? Uh huh.

    Meanwhile, it looks like the U.S. loses about $280 bil a year in offshore accounts, as noted here, and this tells us what the IRS plans to do about it (have to assume it’s legal unless I know otherwise, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t stink to high heaven…and yes, I know about this in a related story, but I don’t think it’s as big of a deal as it was with Romney because, in the latter case, it fit in with a pattern of misbehavior and sanctimony towards the “47 percent” that was truly galling; there’s also a big difference between serving as Treasury Secretary and President of the United States).

  • Finally, I absolutely must say something about the latest from “Chuckles” Krauthammer (here)…

    I find this amazing. First of all, just hearing him say every first grader in America has to be prepared for a high-tech economy, that is a bit early, I think. The other part of this is here we are with $16 trillion in debt, a trillion dollars a year of deficits. We have created already, with under Obama, the biggest entitlement in 50 years. And now he wants to create a new entitlement for preschool for every 4-year-old in the country.

    The worst part of this, this isn’t just any new entitlement. This is an entitlement in an area where we know the $7 billion a year that we spend on Head Start doesn’t make any difference after the third grade. There is a study that HHS has done that showed that. So it’s failure and yet he wants to double down and to make it universal. That’s probably a definition of a liberal.

    Boy, am I sick of defending Head Start against attacks from the wingnutosphere (not attacking the program, I hasten to add).

    As noted here

    …according to Scholastic, “Economists say that the return for every dollar invested in preschool can be anywhere from $2 to $17 when you total the drop in special education, grade repetition, and crime, and add the value of a more productive workforce.” A 2005 study by the University of Texas’ Children’s Learning Institute estimates the return on investment at somewhere between $7 and $8 for every dollar spent, and National Head Start Association study pegs the benefits at $9 returned for every $1 invested in Head Start alone.

    And from here

    At the end of 3rd grade, the most striking sustained subgroup finding was related to children from high risk households. For this subgroup, children in the 3-year old cohort demonstrated sustained cognitive impacts across all the years from pre-K through 3rd grade. At the end of 3rdgrade, the Head Start children from high risk households showed favorable impacts on the ECLS-K Reading Assessment, the WJIII Letter-Word Identification, and the teacher reported reading/language arts skills. This was in contrast to the impacts for children in lower and moderate risk households, for whom there were no impacts. [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, October 2012]

    And from the same link above…

    Head Start’s success over the decades has been built on evidence-based practices. The model, informed by programs like the Perry Preschool, an influential project that tracked children for decades, is constantly adapting — using the best available science and teaching techniques to meet the needs of local communities. [Reuters, 12/27/12]

    And from the same link above…

    Four indicators of economic and social success in adulthood are examined. We find that, for whites, participation in Head Start is associated with a significantly increased probability of completing high school and attending college as well as elevated earnings in one’s early twenties. African Americans who participated in Head Start are significantly less likely to have been charged or convicted of a crime. We also find suggestive evidence that African-American males who attended Head Start are more likely than their siblings to have completed high school. Finally, we uncover some evidence of positive spillovers from older children who attended Head Start to their younger siblings, particularly with regard to criminal behavior. [National Bureau of Economic Research, December 2000]

    I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea.

    Charles Krauthammer is an utterly hacktacular propagandist who will continue to parlay his thoroughly discredited literary dreck in the face of all possible evidence that he is categorically, provably and demonstrably wrong, all for the furtherance of an “ownership society” agenda (them that’s got shall get, them that’s not shall lose, as the song goes) that has been catastrophic for the short, medium and long-term health of our nation.

    That’s probably a definition of a conservative.

    Update 7/9/13: And when it comes to Head Start, maybe “Chuckles” Krauthammer should suck on this (not that he would actually care, I know).


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