Friday Mashup (7/25/14)

July 25, 2014
  • Lots to get to here…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Terrific.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And…

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

    Hensarling also propagandizes as follows…

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

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

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

    Here is more from Hensarling…

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

    In response (here)…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    BACKGROUND:

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

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

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

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

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

    ###

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

    To support Kevin, click here.

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

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

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

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

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

    And as former Reaganite Bruce Bartlett points out here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Hugs…

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    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.


  • Thursday Mashup (4/11/13) (updates)

    April 11, 2013

  • I don’t really have much to say here, but credit where it’s due to PA-31 U.S. House Rep Steve Santarsiero for introducing legislation mandating universal background checks for gun purchases in our beloved commonwealth, specifically long guns purchased at private sales (the Inquirer story more or less leads us to believe that those were the only guns that were previously exempt; also, sales between family members without a background check would apparently still be allowed – not completely happy with that, but for the time being, I’ll settle for three-quarters of the proverbial loaf…kudos to Steve – to find out more, including a petition to regulate drilling in the Marcellus Shale, click here).

    Also, I should note that Pat Toomey embodies just about everything I can’t stand in politics, and it remains an utter abomination that he defeated Joe Sestak in the campaign for Arlen Specter’s old seat in 2010. However, I would be remiss not to note his rather shocking cooperation with Dem Senator Joe Manchin on universal background checks (here) – I never thought I’d find myself giving Toomey credit for anything, but he deserves it here (though, of course, being a political animal, he knows the polling numbers on this issue, noted here and here, as well as anybody).

    I will be curious to see how “No Corporate Tax” Pat ends up re-burnishing his wingnut bona fides to work himself back into the good graces of the “American Illiterati,” as John Fugelsang so hilariously puts it, as a result of his good conduct on this issue.

    Update 1 4/16/13: So “We snookered the other side. They haven’t figured it out yet,” according to this insect named Alan Gottleib, huh (here)? Why am I not surprised?

    So Toomey-Manchin makes it a federal crime to set up a national gun registry? Because the wingnuts continue to live under this delusion that Obama is coming for their guns?

    Then ‘can the whole damn thing and try doing it right next time.

    Update 2 4/16/13: Where Crazy Tom Coburn goes, trouble surely follows (here) – just sh*tcan the whole damn thing and start over…better to have no deal than a rotten one.

  • And sticking with the subject of guns for a moment, Rich Lowry inflicts the following here (and why exactly is “America’s Fish Wrap” giving this clown a megaphone…oh, right – it’s more corporate media “balance”)…

    It is true that 90 percent of Americans support universal background checks. Who can be against background checks? Heck, even the NRA wants states to keep more complete records of who is forbidden from purchasing guns.

    Notice the meely-mouthed wording from Lowry here? He could just say “Heck, even the NRA supports universal background checks.”

    Of course, he doesn’t say that because he knows he would be utterly wrong (and as pointed out here, Lowry would still be wrong on the supposed issue of the NRA wanting to keep more complete records of who isn’t allowed to own a gun – how can states possibly do that when the NRA works as hard as they do to erode the gun laws we already have? And the linked story tells us once more that 90 percent of those polled, as well as 85 percent of NRA members, want universal background checks…and that includes Colorado, where James Holmes shot up his victims at the Aurora movie theater playing “The Dark Knight Rises,” as noted here).

    And oh yeah, did you know that the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre supported universal background checks in 1999, as noted here?

    Another thing…Lowry complains that President Obama supposedly “used children as props” in an effort to enact sane guns laws in this country.

    nra-ad1-228x300
    Yeah, don’t you hate that?

  • Next, Alex Nowrasteh propagandized as follows as The Daily Tucker recently (here)…

    H-1Bs are a bellwether for the economy. As growth picks up, so do filings for H-1B applications. As unemployment skyrockets, filings for H-1B applications plummet. The high demand for these visas this year is a good omen for the economy, and hopefully for immigration reform efforts as well. Highly skilled immigrants are generally considered the “sugar” in any immigration reform efforts — they are used to “sweeten” the other controversial elements like legalization.

    After all, highly skilled immigrants tend to speak English, and there’s little fear of them abusing welfare or committing crimes. Their children typically excel at school , are economically successful, and are more culturally integrated than their parents.

    Don’t you just love Nowrasteh’s disgusting inference that non H-1B workers are more likely to be “abusing welfare” and “committing crimes”?

    Meanwhile, this Boston Globe story tells us the following…

    ON JAN. 14, 2010, senior executives at Molina Healthcare in Long Beach, Calif., called their staff together for a somber meeting. The company had done poorly the previous quarter, they announced. Dozens of people in the IT department would have to be let go.

    What the fired employees didn’t know was that the previous day, the US Department of Labor had approved applications for 40 temporary workers from India to be placed at Molina, through a company called Cognizant.

    The fired employees — all US citizens or green card holders — were earning an average of $75,000 a year, plus benefits; the new workers, brought on H-1B visas, earned $50,000, with no benefits, according to a lawsuit filed by the ex-employees. The lawsuit alleges that Molina was flush with cash at the time, and that the real reason employees were fired was their nationality.

    The business model is to replace Americans,” said James Otto, their attorney.

    Not just at Molina, he said. “It’s happening across the country.”

    I’m not even sure why this is considered to be news any more by now, but if nothing else, it needs to be pointed out in response to the disgusting pabulum of Nowrasteh and others.

    And in a similar vein, I give you this

    Brookings interviewed numerous corporations for that study. The report stirred up a storm with such statements as “employers have a difficult time recruiting residents with the skills they need, largely blaming the weak foundation of secondary education in the United States…employers complain that there is a shortage of skilled workers…[some employers] mentioned that they must recruit at over 50 college campuses in the United States to find 100 [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] employees.”

    #Gene Nelson of San Luis Obispo, a PhD in radiation biophysics and an opponent of H-1B, calls the Brookings study “pathetic baloney.” He and fellow anti-H-1B activists make a good case that the program is basically a scheme to lower the overall wage level in the engineering/computer profession, thus jacking up corporate profits and paving the way for absurdly high top-management pay.

    And as noted in the video from here, an entire cottage industry has evolved of firms instructing potential employers how to run ads in order not to hire American workers and go the H-1B route instead (“gosh, well…you see, we just didn’t have a choice…all those baad American workers were busy collecting welfare and committing crimes…”).

    It would be nice to see one of these corporate bastards convicted of some type of malfeasance over this stuff, then get put out of business with each member of the management team sentenced to 20 years of hard labor on a rock pile.

    And let’s see now, Alex Nowrasteh, Alex Nowrasteh…why does that name sound familiar?

    Oh yeah, I remember now! He’s the son of Cyrus Nowrasteh, the propagandizing tool behind that “Path to 9/11” monstrosity that was posted about here and here (the wingnut apple doesn’t rot far from the tree, now does it?).

    (The late, great blog Outsourced America used to be all over this stuff – sigh.)

  • Continuing, it looks like we’ll have to deal with another crappy example of Repug non-governance (here)…

    This week House Republicans will introduce the misleadingly titled “Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013.” Touted by Republicans as a new comp time initiative that will give hourly-paid workers the flexibility to meet family responsibilities, it is neither new nor about giving these workers much needed time off to care for their families. The bill rehashes legislation Republicans passed in the House in 1997, some 16 years ago, and that they introduced again in most subsequent Congresses. Its major effect would be to hamstring workers – likely increasing overtime hours for those who don’t want them and cutting pay for those who do.

    Oh, but don’t you see? The Repugs are all about “choice.” As in, so-called “exempt” workers (who can’t collect overtime) have a choice now to work the hours denied to “non-exempt” employees who could collect the overtime before, but now cannot, since the exempt employees will do the work for them and the employers will pocket the difference in the way of bonuses for themselves. Witness our glorious free market enterprise system at work!

    And what if the “non-exempt” employee wants the money instead of the hours, and/or the “exempt” employee chooses not to do more work for free?

    unemployment-line_000
    Does this picture mean anything to any of us? Sure it does (especially after reading Alex Nowrasteh extolling the supposed virtues of H-1B workers, right?).

    And by the way, I want to emphasize that I’m not criticizing the author of this Hill column, who is Eileen Appelbaum, Senior Economist, Center for Economic and Policy Research (kudos to her for this, actually).

    So who is responsible for this latest legislative fraud? Why, that would be U.S. House Repug Martha Roby of Alabama (with the “blessing” of that sleazy weasel Eric Cantor, of course), as noted here.

    And as also noted here, it looks like Roby is a tool (“tool-ette”?) of the banksters, and yes, she supported Paul Ryan’s budget big time (here), and here is more of that “get big gumint out of the private sector, because Freedom!” stuff from Roby and the rest of her ilk.

    This latest bit of smoke and mirrors from the ruling clown show in the U.S. House will do nothing to address some of the iniquities faced by workers in this country as noted here (yes, I know the Forbes story is from November 2009, but based on my Google searching on this stuff, I haven’t found any improvements, sad to say).

    Update 5/8/13: And it looks like Roby is at it again (here).

  • Further, Jake Tapper decided to placate the other side over the latest bit of faux indignation (here)…

    On his CNN program Monday afternoon, Jake Tapper took a moment to look at the “buried lead” that is Fox News reporter Jana Winter facing jail time for refusing to out her confidential sources in a Colorado case. “Where is the public outrage?” Tapper asked his audience.

    In July 2012, during a “huge scoop,” Winter cited anonymous law enforcement sources when reporting that Aurora, Colo., theater shooter James Holmes had once given his psychiatrist a notebook detailing his plans for a killing spree. Tapper wrote on his CNN blog that her reporting on the story revealed how “the system failed” the victims, and that her scoop allowed the “public to judge how well the judicial, and mental health, and other systems are working.”

    “Instead of a focus on how the system failed, we’re talking about whether Winter should go to jail for reporting on Holmes’s journal, which was found in a mail room after the attack,” Tapper lamented.

    And so, Tapper wanted to know, “where’s the public outrage?

    Please…

    To begin, this stuff has been going on for years (as noted here), wrong as it is I’ll admit, but I didn’t hear anyone from Fix Noise or their fellow travelers complaining out loud when it involved the New York Times, the Washington Post, the AP, et cetera, et cetera.

    However, as noted here (with the headline asking a very good question), “By acquiring the notebook, however, it was clear that Winter had been in contact with an individual who violated the gag order imposed on anyone with information about the ongoing Holmes trial.”

    Here is my question – where is Winter’s editor in this fiasco? Does she even have one?

    It should also be noted that, on the subject of reporters and leaking or withholding information, Tapper has no grounds to criticize anybody. As noted here and here, he misrepresented the position of our prior ruling cabal on the issue of firing anyone who had anything to do with leaking the identity of Valerie Plame; Tapper said that Bushco would only fire someone who had broken the law – Plame’s husband, diplomat Joe Wilson, pointed out that the administration’s former PR flak Scott McClellan said they would fire anyone involved in the leak whether they’d broken the law or not (and as you’ll recall, Karl Rove, just about named by Time reporter Matthew Cooper, was allowed to leave on his own terms).

    I’ll admit that there’s room to question both the behavior of Winter and the judge here. However, you can’t go against a court ruling on revealing information that could be prejudicial to a trial (and by the way, you’d better believe that Holmes’s lawyers are concocting some way to try and get a potential guilty verdict overturned on grounds of a mistrial over this). And please spare me the wailing and gnashing of teeth…”oh, that baad mainstream media won’t cover this First Amendment catastrophe because it involves Fox.”

  • Finally, it’s time to turn to South Carolina U.S. Senator Huckleberry Graham (here).

    As we know, President Obama submitted his budget to Congress, which included the horrendous formula known as “Chained C.P.I.” as part of calculating Social Security benefits (opposed by 2.3 million people, as noted here).

    Of course, being a Repug, Graham just loves anything that sticks it to the “99 percent.” So how did he communicate what he thought of the budget?

    “The president is showing a bit of leg here,” Graham said.

    Now, if you’re of a certain age (and I am, which I’m a bit loathe to admit at times), one of the first images that comes into your mind when you hear that expression is that of actress Claudette Colbert in the movie “It Happened One Night” raising the hem of her dress to reveal a bit of leg, as it were, while trying to hitch hike, in an effort to get a car to slow down and look at her and offer a ride (the joke that works rather well in the movie is that her co-star Clark Gable first tried the more traditional means of sticking out his thumb, which obviously failed).

    I don’t suppose that Graham knows this, though his handlers obviously do, including the Repug Party marketers and image makers who are compensated handsomely for trying to pull the proverbial wool over our eyes on a 24/7/365 basis.

    My point (finally) is that, as opposed to saying, “We agree with some of what the president is proposing, but we want a closer look before we commit to anything” or similar language, Graham attempts to almost feminize Obama here, and thus, further trying to disrespect and delegitimize him (can you imagine the outcry if, say, Al Franken had said that about Dubya?).

    After all, you can’t truly be a Repug unless you’re shamelessly demagoguing your enemies and accusing them of the same tactics you’re practicing yourself, can you?

    Of course, Graham really doesn’t have any room to raise gender-bending talking points about anyone when you consider this…does he?


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