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).

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    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.

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    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.


  • Tuesday Mashup (8/3/10)

    August 3, 2010

  • 1) Even the animals are feeling the effects of the wars (here)…

    Gina was a playful 2-year-old German shepherd when she went to Iraq as a highly trained bomb-sniffing dog with the military, conducting door-to-door searches and witnessing all sorts of noisy explosions.

    She returned home to Colorado cowering and fearful. When her handlers tried to take her into a building, she would stiffen her legs and resist. Once inside, she would tuck her tail beneath her body and slink along the floor. She would hide under furniture or in a corner to avoid people.

    A military veterinarian diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder _ a condition that some experts say can afflict dogs just like it does humans.

    “She showed all the symptoms and she had all the signs,” said Master Sgt. Eric Haynes, the kennel master at Peterson Air Force Base. “She was terrified of everybody and it was obviously a condition that led her down that road.”

    A year later, Gina is on the mend. Frequent walks among friendly people and a gradual reintroduction to the noises of military life have begun to overcome her fears, Haynes said.

    Haynes describes her progress as “outstanding.”

    I came across this after reading another spot-on column by Bob Herbert today on Iraq and Afghanistan (describing the effects on humans who are serving and those non-serving who are sick of the wars and want to end them, bring our people home, do our best to try and heal their wounds and fix our country as well).

    And by the way, the VA recently finalized regulations on processing PTSD claims as of July 13th; to learn more about the regs and obtain related information, click here.

  • 2) And in news of the California gubernatorial contest, Repug Meg Whitman is outspending Dem Jerry Brown 86-1 (here).

    And she still trails (here).

  • 3) Also, Joke Line is at it again (here, on the matter of the upcoming congressional elections)…

    The total damage assessment will have to wait until election day. As I wrote a few weeks ago, the Democrats’ losses may fall short of the 1994 wipeout–the loss of the Senate is still a prohibitive longshot. But the House is in jeopardy, especially–as always–its most moderate members. It will be interesting to see if a House composed entirely of radical Republicans and safe-seat liberal troglodytes is any more successful than the current disaster. I suspect not.

    I’d like to introduce Joke to a concept called “reporting,” and by that I mean that he should bother to read the information from this link listing the accomplishments of the 110th Congress, which he, being a scion of villager punditry, considers a “disaster.”

    Has this congress had its share of pratfalls? Yes. However, let’s consider them in light of the good that has been done, outpacing the wretched, Repug-run 109th, shall we?

    Do I actually think Klein will bother to take me up on this, though?

    I suspect not.

  • 4) Finally, this tells us the following…

    Angry relatives of 9/11 victims last night clashed with supporters of a planned mosque near Ground Zero at a raucous community-board hearing in Manhattan.

    After four hours of public debate, members of Community Board 1 finally voted 29-1 in support of the project. Nine members abstained, arguing that they wanted to table the issue and vote at a later date.

    The board has no official say over whether the estimated $100 million mosque and community center gets built. But the panel’s support, or lack of it, is considered important in influencing public opinion.

    Holding up photos of loved ones killed in the Twin Towers and carrying signs such as, “Honor 3,000, 9/11 — No mosque!” opponents of the proposed Cordoba House on Park Place called the plan an insult to the terror-attack victims.

    “That is a burial ground,” said retired FDNY Deputy Chief Al Santora, referring to the fact that victims’ remains were scattered for blocks.

    Santora’s 23-year-old son, Christopher, was the youngest firefighter to die that day.

    “I do have a problem with having a mosque on top of the site where [terrorists] can gloat about what they did,” said Santora, with his wife, Maureen, by his side.

    I’m not taking sides on this one way or the other, but I just wanted to note the following in response.

    This tells us about the Second Schweinfurt Memorial Association, Inc. (SSMA); here is how the group came to be formed as a result of a horrific WWII battle…

    At dawn, on October 14, 1943, in foul weather, the 8th Army Air Force, also known as the Mighty 8th, dispatched 291 B-17 bombers to the town of Schweinfurt Germany, a flight of some 800 miles. Since this city was vital to the ball bearing industry, it was at the top of the list of strategic targets for the allied forces and had already received a first attack on August 17, 1943.

    The bombers were initially protected by friendly fighter escort, which were forced to turn back about half way to the targets. Arriving at the target, the bombers were attacked by an estimated 1,100 enemy fighters firing cannon and large caliber rockets manned by the German Lufwaffenhelfer (LWH) or flak-helpers. The vicious attacks were continued and repulsed until the bombers reached the English Channel on the return flight to England.

    The battle brought great loss to both sided. Sixty heavy bombers and 600 airmen perished. Many lost their lives in the burning, badly damaged, crashed planes. Many became prisoners of war. Fifteen additional aircraft were so damaged they could never fly again. On the ground, 276 people died and countless more were injured. Businesses and homes were razed. Valuable and treasured possessions perished. Consequently, October 14, 1943 – Mission 115, became known as “Black Thursday” in American military history and one of the greatest air battles of World War II.

    Thirty years later some of the survivors from the Mighty 8th, including Colonel Budd Peaslee, S/Sgt. Phillip Taylor and 1st Lt. William Allen, decided to form an organization to commemorate their fallen comrades-in-arms. They called it the Second Schweinfurt Memorial Association, Inc. (SSMA), giving it direct connection to the second air raid on Schweinfurt.

    The story also tells us that…

    “(on) the 50th Anniversary, two Germans, Dr. Helmut Katzenberger and Vomar Wilckens came to the reunion in New Orleans to present to the group information they had on that fateful day. Then in 1996, the SSMA members invited more of their former enemies, including Georg Schaefer, whose grandfather founded one of the “targeted” ball bearing factories, to attend their reunion in Las Vegas, Nevada. Mr. Schaefer, now retired from the Board of Directors of FAG Kuglefischer, had served, along with his classmates, in one of the 8.8 cm Flakbatteries around Schweinfurt. He brought many artifacts from “Black Thursday”. Many of these artifacts are permanently included in the Second Schweinfurt display at the Mighty 8th Air Force Museum in Savannah, Georgia.

    It was at this reunion that the Americans suggested erecting a joint memorial remembering this mission. Mr. Schaefer presented this idea to his fellow Luftwafferhelfers, who embraced the idea and June 16, 1998 a German American Memorial was dedicated on a former air raid bunker site in Schweinfurt.”

    It should be noted that, concerning the proposed mosque near the WTC site, a memorial to the victims of the attacks has been proposed, as noted here.

    I’m not saying that the mosque is a good idea at this point. I’m also not saying that the wishes of the friends and families shouldn’t be paramount here (they should).

    All I’m saying is that an earlier generation of combatants was able to put aside its differences to the point where they could construct a memorial honoring the sacrifices made by both sides.

    I’m just saying that it’s possible to do that. That’s all.


  • Friday Mashup Part One (3/19/10)

    March 19, 2010

  • 1) Time to get the WHAAAmbulance for “Governor Appalachian Argentinean Trail” based on this…

    Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina agreed Thursday to pay $74,000 to settle charges that his personal travel and campaign spending violated state ethics laws, but he continued to deny wrongdoing.

    In November, the State Ethics Commission charged Mr. Sanford with 37 ethics violations, including spending taxpayer money on business-class flights, using state aircraft for personal travel and spending campaign funds for noncampaign expenses. The charges surfaced in the wake of his confession last summer to an extramarital affair with a woman in Argentina.

    Mr. Sanford will pay $2,000 per charge and avoid a hearing. But though he chose not to contest the charges, he insisted he had been held to a stricter and less fair standard than previous governors.

    Really? As noted here…

    How can there be accountability in South Carolina when it seems that there is a direct collusion between the Republican Party, the U.S. Attorney’s office, (the SC State Law Enforcement Divison), and the media to keep these politicians that abuse their elected position in power, and, at worst, mitigate the penalty they get for even the most egregious of crimes they commit?

    The State newspaper would have SC citizen’s believe that the most important thing happening in the state is that taxes on cigarettes should be raised to help alleviate the budget shortfall. In the meantime, you have the Town of Lexington City Council believing they are above the law. You have various police departments in South Carolina abdicating their responsibility, not once, but over and over, in order to protect GOP politician’s (sic).

    The Docudharma post, in addition to Sanford, mentions Repug State Treasurer Thomas Ravenel, U.S. Attorney Kevin McDonald (a Bushco appointee), and Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer. All have benefited to one degree or another from the cozy treatment received by the state’s Republican establishment.

    Given this, Sanford shut just shut up and be grateful that he’s still governor, which is enough of a travesty by itself (and that state’s attorney general is little better based on this).

  • 2) Partly out of a sense of masochism I suppose, I’m prone to check the Fix Noise site for the latest wingnut propaganda, and Dana Perino obliged as follows here…

    One of the most humbling parts of serving as the White House press secretary is getting to meet so many of our brave military men and women. It is hard to explain how they affected me — they are professional, courageous, and enthusiastic, as well as serene and grounded. Their decision to volunteer to serve our country — despite the hardships and dangers — made my decisions seem easy by comparison. One of the great joys of having been the press secretary, however, is to have a chance to help vets I get to meet — like Dave Sharpe.

    Dave Sharpe came home from serving in Operation Enduring Freedom and realized his life would never be the same. Unfortunately, due to what he experienced while fighting for his country, he struggled to re-acclimate back into his post-deployment world. He told me he lived in a state of constant despair and could not see a way back to happiness. His official diagnosis was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a condition affecting millions of our nation’s veterans.

    A friend of his thought that meeting up with a rescue dog could help Dave feel better. He introduced him to a pit-bull puppy named Cheyenne. Their bond was immediate. One night, Dave says he reached a turning point when he woke up pounding on the wall and saw Cheyenne looking up at him. From there, he started to gain control of the difficult emotions he was feeling and drastically improved his condition. Dave says that he and Cheyenne are proof that there’s an incredible human-animal bond that exists and that it can help people many struggling with PTSD.

    I have to tell you that I’m having a hard time coming up with the words to describe how obscene it is that a charter member of Bushco like Perino can actually pretend to care about our veterans when you consider the following (this post by Jon Soltz of VoteVets from last year tells us of the steps to correct this the Obama Administration took in its first 100 days)…

    (Funding of veterans care was) the shame of the Bush administration. The Department of Veterans Affairs was consistently underfunded…The low-point came when then-Secretary Jim Nicholson had to come groveling to Congress for more than a billion dollars in emergency funding, admitting that the administration had not prepared for the boom in returning veterans in need of care, as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The underfunding had dramatic consequences across the board – from research and treatment into Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to the shameful commonplace practice of veterans having to duct tape their prosthetic limbs, because the VA couldn’t get them decent ones.

    The gap between DOD care and VA care was more like a chasm for many veterans in need of care. Brian McGough, who is now legislative director for VoteVets.org, suffered a traumatic brain injury in Iraq. The gap in his care between active and veteran status was so big that he had to apply for unemployment insurance, because of the delay in getting the disability benefits he was due.

    And this post by Bob Geiger tells us of Jonathan Schulze, a Marine who earned two Purple Hearts but grew so despondent from PTSD upon his return to Minnesota that he eventually took his own life (when the VA under Bushco was notified that Schulze was suicidal, Schulze was told that he was 26th in line for care).

    I will acknowledge that the story of Dave Sharpe and his pit bull puppy is just the sort of “aww, isn’t that nice,” feel good bit of fluff to lull Fix Noise’s audience of dutifully compliant lemmings into complacency while the harder issue of why the hell our prior ruling cabal had no clue about how to treat our dead or wounded heroes goes unaddressed.

    Still, I’ll grant that Perino’s story is symbolic if nothing else, because, as far as a member of our military under Bushco was concerned, it truly was a dog’s life.

  • 3) Finally, I give you the following from Repug U.S. House Rep Dana Rohrabacher of California (another Bushco insult to our veterans)…

    Yesterday, the libertarian Cato Institute hosted a panel discussion on conservatism and the war in Afghanistan with Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN). When the conversation shifted to the war in Iraq, Rohrabacher said that “once President Bush decided to go into Iraq, I thought it was a mistake because we hadn’t finished the job in Afghanistan,” but that once Bush “decided to go in,” he “felt compelled” to “back him up.” He then added that “the decision to go in, in retrospect, almost all of us think that was a horrible mistake.”

    As Think Progress tells us, McClintock wasn’t in Congress when the Iraq war was authorized, and Duncan opposed the vote, some truly rare courage for a Repug. However, Dana Rohrabacher has no such excuse (and a particularly awful admission on today of all days, the seventh anniversary of the beginning of the war).

    And, as noted here (in a post written by Retired U.S. Army Reserves Colonel Ann Wright)…

    “I HOPE IT’S YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS THAT DIE” said US Representative Dana Rohrabacher to American citizens who questioned the Bush Administration’s unlawful extraordinary rendition policies.

    Congressional hearings provide a deep insight into the inner spirit of our elected representatives-and sometimes, the insight is not pretty.

    On April 17, we witnessed Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) unleash his unbridled anger onto members of the European Parliament’s committee on Human rights who were invited guests and witnesses in the House Foreign Affairs European subcommittee hearing. The European Parliamentary human rights committee had issued a report in January, 2007 sharply critical of the Bush administration’s extraordinary rendition program in which persons from all over the world were detained by either CIA or local police and then flown by CIA jet (torture taxi) to other countries where they were imprisoned (Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Libya, Djibouti, Morocco, Yemen. The report was equally critical of European governments for allowing the unlawful flights to take place.

    And let’s not forget Rohrabacher’s untidy dealings with the Taliban and a certain founder of al Qaeda, as noted here.

    So basically, Rohrabacher is now admitting to a friendly audience of Cato Institute flunkies that, gee, maybe Iraq was a bad idea after all. This was after he wished death upon the family members of those who opposed the “extraordinary rendition” of Bushco (and yes, I know Clinton practiced rendition also, but nothing like his successor did).

    I’d pay good money to see Bill Maher get in Rohrabacher’s face about this next time the congressman appears on “Real Time.” However, I’m not holding my breath on that.


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