Friday Mashup (10/17/14)

October 17, 2014

mark-bio

  • By the time you read this, the sickening little demonstration noted here will be over (due to take place around midday today) – more follows…

    The video opens with the black-and-white footage of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s stirring clarion call for equal rights at the 1963 March on Washington.

    It quickly goes full color, and cuts to gruesome close-ups of the bloody remnants of abortions. It is fair to say that what is shown is disturbing.

    On Friday, the images will be displayed on a 10- by 12-foot screen set high on Independence Mall, the heart of Philadelphia’s tourism zone, as the antiabortion group Created Equal brings its high-tech assault on the practice to Philadelphia.

    The video, on a continuous loop, will be played from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., according to Mark Harrington, Created Equal’s national director.

    “It seems fitting to me that we are launching this campaign in the very place where our nation’s founders penned those words, created equal,” Harrington said. “We are still battling for equal rights. In this case, it is the pre-born who are being discriminated against.”

    I know there are individuals out there who profess to be “pro-life” and who indeed “walk the walk” as opposed to just “talking the talk,” and who have adopted babies, taken in single mothers in desperate situations, staged prayer vigils away from clinics and not interfered with the medically-related activity taking place (and of course not shouted epithets at anyone, thrown blood, tried to wreck cars, or any of that other stupidity, to say nothing of not writing ridiculous garbage in newspapers or calling into talk radio demonizing mothers seeking medical help). To me, those people deserve respect.

    However, most of these individuals in my experience (such as it is) are cut from the same disgusting cloth as Mark Harrington (pictured). And I think it’s particularly vile for Harrington and his ilk to even imagine that his escapades have anything whatsoever to do with the struggle for civil rights in this country.

    There is no good reason whatsoever for Harrington to engage in an activity like this (showing fetuses in the most grotesque situations imaginable, and probably some situations we can’t imagine), trying to force these images down the metaphorical throats of anyone visiting Independence Mall (including very young children, I’m sure), once of the more scenic places in the city (and the weather is nice today, so it should be busy), other than self-promotion.

    And yes, I have a particular axe to grind here because I can still vividly remember the seemingly never-ending pictures of fetuses in jars in the Catholic Standard and Times newspaper after the Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade in 1973, a time when I was still quite young and impressionable. As I’ve said, the images had an impact, but probably not the one the Church intended.

    Harrington has pulled this stunt before, by the way, including Turlington Plaza at the University of Florida (generating this response, including the following)…

    This has nothing to do with being pro-choice, pro-life or pro-anything. Regardless of anyone’s beliefs about abortion — and we all have an opinion there — does anyone feel it is acceptable to make students with abortion experiences feel uncomfortable on their own campus? No matter what the message, presentation is everything. In my opinion, a less-hostile open dialogue would be a more productive model of outreach. There must be another viable medium that doesn’t feel like an ambush. If I were considering abortion, or simply on the fence about my beliefs, these seemingly extremist people are not the ones I would consult.

    Created Equal executive director Mark Harrington says his platform targets “the mushy middle,” people who have no strong stance at either end of the abortion debate spectrum.

    I don’t believe such an audience exists on a university campus. If you do exist, on-the-fence folks, here’s my message to you: engage in civil, fact-based conversations with multiple people from both sides of the issue. Sharing beliefs and creating an open dialogue about social issues is a fundamental aspect of university life. One beauty of our campus is that it fosters constant exposure to new belief systems. No one here is naïve enough to want protection from opposing views. I imagine we all value them greatly. But this sideshow? It’s all a sensational stunt, an exhibition of the outlandish that serves only to needle young women into feeling guilty.

    To the members of Created Equal, thank you for voicing your beliefs and exercising your right to free speech. However, is it too much to ask that women with abortion history or those considering it presently have a peaceful walk across their campus without being confronted by grisly photos of fetuses on coins? Is there not enough humanity in your movement to recognize the benefits of a different approach? Judging from the pamphlets that were available at the exhibit, I know you have other media at your disposal.

    Regardless of my abortion views — which have probably become apparent anyway — it’s important to note these images are not from the typical procedure. Traveling pro-life groups are notorious for using photos of late-term abortions carried out for emergency reasons. Those interested should visit http://www.thisismyabortion.com/ for a glimpse of reality.

    Uh, yep.

  • Next, I don’t want to spend too much time on the waste of protoplasm that is Erick (“Son of Erick”) Erickson, but he concocted the following nonsense here (in a column trying to equate ISIS with the cases of Ebola in this country)…

    The Syrian rebels were too rag-tag and weak to take on ISIS, according to President Obama. But within a week of saying that, he announced to the world that his plan in Syria was to arm those rag-tag rebels and have them do our bidding against ISIS.

    Um…regardless of what you may think of the strategy of arming Syrian rebels against ISIS (not a good option as far as I’m concerned, but preferable to U.S. “boots on the ground”), doesn’t what Erickson describe above seem like a logical course of events? Where is the “there” there?

    It gets better…

    The president also told the American public that Ebola would never come to the United States.

    Not according to factcheck.org, which tells us the following (here)…

    Sen. John McCain claimed on a Sunday talk show that “we were told there would never be a case of Ebola in the United States.” Not exactly. U.S. health officials, early in the outbreak, said it was highly unlikely, but we could not find any instances of them saying it would never happen.

    This item from Fix Noise shill Jeanine Pirro doesn’t have anything to do with the Erickson column, but it does have something to do with ISIS, so allow me to add it here; namely, Pirro’s claim that Obama released Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, supposed head of this bunch of murderers, in 2009, which is categorically false. And as for Ebola, I guess what you would call of “clearing house” of debunked Ebola-related BS is here. And in conclusion on ISIS, I think this is definitely food for thought also.

  • Further (and sticking with Number 44), it looks like “liberal” Richard Cohen is at it again (here)…

    Tell me something: What do you think would happen if the United States concludes that Iran has been cheating and delaying and is about to pop a fully functional nuclear weapons program? Would President Obama respond by joining Israel to bomb the Iranian nuclear facilities to smithereens, or would he stall and equivocate? My bet is the latter and also, just to double down, what I bet the Iranians are betting. They have taken the measure of Obama. He lacks menace.

    Menace is essential in a world leader if he (or she) is going to be feared as well as admired. Obama falls into the admired category — the leader who won the Nobel Peace Prize with mere good intentions, a guy who had a new attitude toward Russia (a reset) and Iran (an approach) and China (a pivot) and, of course, to the Muslim world — an appreciation from a president who had broken the mold. We know him now as someone miscast: a rational man in an irrational world.

    I must tell you that I read over this a few times and thought “do I really want to say something about this idiot” (Cohen, I mean)? Isn’t life already too short?

    And then I thought to myself, sure, why not?

    For one thing, comments like this betray more of Cohen’s mindset than that of the world he supposedly knows something about. Because he apparently craves the “certainty” of a leader who, though perhaps catastrophically wrong, would act as if his thought processes are populated by fevered dreams of something called American Exceptionalism (I know you know who I’m talking about). And if this leader takes us into yet another catastrophic misadventure in the Middle East for no good reason…well, that means that Israel won’t be fighting alone now, will it?

    Call me just a filthy, unkempt liberal blogger, but maybe the reason we have an irrational world (I agree with Cohen on that much) is because we have too many irrational people in charge! And wouldn’t it be nice if we did a better job of recognizing people who actually have their scruples and act like intelligent adults in the face of onslaughts from all over the world (not saying to never question them, but just to try and support them when we believe it is necessary)?

    Given that, then surely Cohen would have noted long ago that Obama is “a rational man in an irrational world” and tried to make sure that his criticisms had at least some basis in reality, right?

    Well…

  • Here, he condemned the White House visit by the parents of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. soldier held captive in Afghanistan for five years, as “utterly repellent,” even though Cohen acknowledged that the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s capture are unclear.
  • Here, he embraced the “leading from behind” smear of President Obama (straight out of Drudge, Breitbart, and the like).
  • Here (as he does in his most current column), he makes a misguided push for a strike on Iran.
  • Here, he criticized Obama’s body language and supposed inability to “emote.”
  • Here, he wrote that Europe’s supposed view of Obama is that he’s an “accidental” president, among other nonsense.
  • (By the way, lots of other Cohen-related idiocy can be read from here.)

    Yes, I realize this is part of the whole pundit game about finding ways to be talked about. However, I honestly believe that Cohen thinks he’s right that our president should act in the manner and style deployed here (and no, I haven’t forgotten what led up to that). All to display “menace,” no doubt.

    How pitiably sad for Cohen not to realize that, were Obama to do such a thing, the rest of the world would surely laugh in his face.

  • Continuing (and speaking of pitiably sad), I give you former Ken Blackwell here on the matter of “biosimilar” drugs (more here…and this gives us a refresher on why Blackwell is such a miscreant – hard to believe that it’s been nearly 10 years)…

    Now, it is up to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to implement the biosimilar approval process. But millions of dollars have been spent on a lobbying effort from Obama’s crony capitalist friends on K Street to protect the interests of biologic drug markers. Initially, they were given a 12-year data exclusivity clause in the Obamacare law. But now, they are fighting through a questionable grassroots campaign, with the goal of distracting the FDA.

    These special interests are demanding unnecessary distinct naming rules for the ingredients in generic drugs, even though Obamacare does not allow for it. Americans with life- threatening diseases do not deserve to suffer thanks to these complicated and underhanded tricks by those in the pockets of Big Pharma.

    HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

    I hate to break the news to Blackwell, but both parties are in the hands of “Big Pharma,” as noted here.

    More to the point, this tells us that the 12-to-14-year window Blackwell criticizes “drew applause from CVS Caremark, whose EVP specialty pharmacy services, Dave Golding, participated in an FTC roundtable event on the issue” (the Generic Pharmaceutical Association agreed with Number 44 on this also).

    Not surprisingly, though, naming conventions for generics provoked this letter from 28 members of Congress who opposed the move; I believe the FDA recommendation on that was voluntary, by the way – hard to sift through some of the bureaucratic-ese (and the 28 who signed the letter are the same motley crew of usual conservative suspects, by the way). However, for anyone criticizing naming conventions for generics (which would bring them to parity with name brands, by the way) I have two words; Accutane and Sulindac (read from this link about the misery suffered by those who took these poisons).

    And from here

    “Regulation of these formularies is going to be a huge thing moving forward,” said Paul A. Calvo, a director in the biotechnology group at Sterne Kessler Goldstein & Fox. “I think as soon as the public heard there is very limited oversight in these areas, they went nuts.”

    Understandable as far as I’m concerned; background on formularies (basically, lists of prescribed medications for particular illnesses for insurance purposes) can be accessed from here.

    Oh, and speaking of “nuts” (and having to do with bioresearch a bit), I give you this.

  • Finally, I give you this from the Kevin Strouse campaign…

    Contact: Will Block, will@kevinstrouse.com, 610-400-3163
    For Immediate Release: Monday, October 13th, 2014

    Takeaway from Mike Fitzpatrick’s New TV Ad: Veterans Are Tired of Fitzpatrick’s Failures and Deception

    Fitzpatrick Voted Against Reducing the Veterans Disability Claims Backlog

    Bristol, PA – Last week, Fitzpatrick for Congress released its first ad of the general election. Unfortunately, the ad misleads voters about Fitzpatrick’s failed record on veterans’ issues. The facts show that Congressman Fitzpatrick has stood in the way of reducing the veterans disability claims backlog, and has voted against veterans’ interests on multiple occasions.

    The ad shows a doctor walking alongside a disabled veteran in a wheelchair. The exact footage used in the ad is available for purchase on http://www.istockphoto.com as “Man in wheelchair walking with doctor – Stock Video.”

    Strouse campaign spokesman Will Block commented, “This year, we saw Congressman Fitzpatrick jump onto a bandwagon with his colleagues to put a bandaid on a problem that he helped create in the first place. Disabled veterans are real heroes with real stories who deserve a Congressman that will fight for the care that they deserve — not some stock footage that can be purchased online. The fact that Fitzpatrick suddenly cares about the disability backlog, especially when he’s running against a combat veteran, is exactly what’s wrong with politics.”

    Fitzpatrick’s ad claims that he worked with a whistleblower this year to uncover the claims backlog at the Philadelphia Veterans Benefits Administration office. Well, the backlog is nothing new, and the Congressman knows it. In fact, in 2013 he voted against a motion which would have provided funding to hire more adjudicators to cut through the disability claims backlog.

    Block continued, “Fitzpatrick’s anti-veteran record speaks for itself. It’s especially egregious for Fitzpatrick to claim to be working to end the disability claims backlog after voting in 2013 against a measure to do exactly that. These issues at the VA are nothing new — unfortunately, they only seem to matter to Congressman Fitzpatrick in an election year.”

    BACKGROUND:

    Stock Footage Used in Fitzpatrick’s TV Ad: [www.istockphoto.com, Man in wheelchair walking with doctor – Stock Video]

    Fitzpatrick’s TV Ad…aired on 10/8/14:

    Fitzpatrick voted against quicker disability claims processing:

    In 2013, Fitzpatrick voted against a motion to recommit with instructions that would help reduce the backlog of disability claims for veterans. The amendment would add $9.2 million in funding (double the funds in the underlying appropriations bill) to hire an additional 94 claims processors to help reduce the veterans disability claims backlog. The amendment failed 198-227. [MTR on H.R. 2216, Vote #192, 6/04/13]

    Fitzpatrick voted to block the “Veterans Backlog Reduction Act”, which would
    direct the secretary to pay provisional benefits for claims that are still processing: [New York Times, 5/30/14; Vote #180, 5/23/13]

    “From The New York Times: Republican House candidates could also find themselves under pressure to explain their past votes against proposals for more money for veterans programs. Democrats were pointing to a procedural vote in May 2013, when House Republicans opposed a Democratic measure called the Veterans Backlog Reduction Act.”

    ###

    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 regional high school students. He earned his BA from Columbia University and a Masters in Security Studies from Georgetown University, graduating with honors.

    To help with the Kevin Strouse campaign in the closing days, please click here.

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    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…


  • Friday Mashup (2/14/14)

    February 14, 2014
  • This story hits me where I live.

    If it had not been for the winter weather, I very well may have been involved in this disaster in the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I chose not to travel that route today).

    What matters most, of course, is immediate medical attention to the victims, which is currently underway of course. What matters beyond that is somehow allowing everyone trapped on the highway to get out as safely as possible (with their vehicles intact, or, short of that, with their vehicles salvaged somehow). And then, the roadway needs to be cleaned up to the fullest extent possible, of course.

    But at some future point, when everyone involved is OK (hopefully), I want SOMEBODY to ask this question (preferably a politician – put them to work doing something constructive):

    Why the hell is there STILL no light rail, mass transit alternative from Bucks County near the New Jersey/Trenton area to the western PA suburbs and Chester County in particular?

    Yes, I know – NIMBY. But as far as I’m concerned, that was never a good enough explanation. And it DEFINITELY isn’t a good enough explanation in light of this massive chain accident today.

    Commuter trains run near where we live (the R-3 West Trenton line in particular). It’s no big deal – you barely hear them (can’t say the same for the CSX freight trains, which are a whole other story). And they are clean, relatively speaking. There’s no reason why at least one commuter line cannot run from Bucks through Montgomery to Chester County (or even beyond). No, I don’t have any recent data on this, but I don’t know of a circumstance where a mass transit alternative was offered versus negotiating a congested thoroughfare, and that alternative was ignored.

    The time has long since passed for this discussion to be settled once and for all. If anything positive whatsoever can come of this horror today, then let this be it.

    Update 2/15/14: I apologize for being a bit unclear about something – when I’m talking about mass transit from Bucks to Chester counties, I mean that for both directions.

  • And as noted herewow, so Smerky has graduated to the higher (?) ranks of the pundit class now that he has been absorbed by “The Most Trusted Name in News.”

    I think this calls for a brief retrospective of some of his “highlights”:

  • As noted here, he once complained that Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels felt that he had to drop out of consideration for the 2012 Repug presidential nomination because of too much scrutiny of Daniels’ personal life, even though our intrepid Philadelphia Inquirer columnist had no qualms about going after former Dem presidential candidate John Edwards.
  • He came out in defense of saner schedules and more rest for air traffic controllers, which is good, without noting of course that the Teahadists in the U.S. House sought to cut the budget of the FAA (here – third bullet).
  • He criticized the de facto discrimination against the jobless in hiring, though he basically said that there’s nothing that the federal government should be able to do about it (here – typical).
  • He once heckled Roger Waters of Pink Floyd for supporting the Palestinians here, and was actually quite proud of his behavior (Smerky, I mean).
  • He tried to mythologize The Sainted Ronnie R here (third bullet), criticizing Obama for criticizing the Supremes over Citizens United, saying Ronnie didn’t do that on Roe v. Wade (no, not much – he just created that stupid “Mexico City” policy to go with his criticism, that’s all).
  • He compared Arianna Huffington to a hooker outing a john here (nice).
  • I will admit that Smerky is cagey enough to know he has to take a page, as it were, from the book of someone like Joe Scarborough, who pretends to be sensible amidst spouting his full-on wingnuttery, particularly over the Clintons.

    So I guess congratulations are in order to Smerky for playing the typical corporate media game and ensconcing himself to an undeserved position of influence (though I guess he also deserves points for honesty based on this).

    And once again, I am compelled to ask the question…this is CNN?

  • Next (and speaking of wingnuttery), you can always rely on more bilious right-wing propaganda from Cal Thomas, and he delivers more of it here (from clownhall.com)…

    In 1976, Jimmy Carter promised never to lie to us, a promise that rested on a perception of his own virtue. Given his sad record, the country might have willingly exchanged veracity for competence.

    Interesting that Thomas would say that now even though he once complimented Carter on the former president’s “worship experience” here (and as noted here, he has a rather infamous track record at proclaiming “doom and gloom” over alleged “values” issue anyway).

  • Further, I give you the following from Repug U.S. House Rep Ted Poe via Fix Noise here

    (The) NSA argues that its employees only carry out the actions necessary to find terrorists and protect our country. They have even claimed that terrorist attacks have been prevented as a result of their actions.

    If this is true, those success stories should be made public. At a Judiciary Committee hearing last week, I asked Deputy Attorney General James Cole how many criminal cases have been filed as a result of this massive spying operation.

    His answer? Maybe one. And he wasn’t even 100% sure of that.

    That’s right, the NSA has launched one of the largest data collection programs in U.S. history that monitors who we call, how long we talk to them, who they called, and where our calls were made from, all in order to “maybe” catch one bad guy.

    In any event, the ends do not justify the means. NSA has trampled on the Fourth Amendment rights of millions of Americans.

    It’s funny in a way that Poe mentions the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution when you consider the following; as noted here, the USA Patriot Act…

    violates the Fourth Amendment, which says the government cannot conduct a search without obtaining a warrant and showing probable cause to believe that the person has committed or will commit a crime.

    Violates the Fourth Amendment by failing to provide notice – even after the fact – to persons whose privacy has been compromised. Notice is also a key element of due process, which is guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment.

    Under the Patriot Act PR/TT orders issued by a judge are no longer valid only in that judge’s jurisdiction, but can be made valid anywhere in the United States. This “nationwide service” further marginalizes the role of the judiciary, because a judge cannot meaningfully monitor the extent to which his or her order is being used. In addition, this provision authorizes the equivalent of a blank warrant: the court issues the order, and the law enforcement agent fills in the places to be searched. That is a direct violation of the Fourth Amendment’s explicit requirement that warrants be written “particularly describing the place to be searched.”

    And who voted to renew the Patriot Act three years ago? Why, Ted Poe, as noted here (other idiocy with Poe can be found here…he’s #39 on the list – Poe also opposed the census here; second bullet).

  • Continuing, I came across the following item that made my jaw drop (here)…

    Ask this question to almost anyone, and the resounding answer will be something like: “Yes! It is the American Way. ‘One person, one vote’ is the cornerstone of democracy.”

    True, but interesting in light of this from yet another elitist scumbag (but I digress)…

    Just how deep this sentiment runs can be seen in the recent protests against policies requiring all voters to first produce a photo ID. The protesters seem to feel that any restriction on the unimpeded access to voting undermines our very democracy.

    I support voter ID laws. Without them, a single person could theoretically cast many votes during one Election Day by going to different polling stations; the fraud potential is enormous. If there are people too poor to procure an ID, the small amount of money needed for this purpose should be provided, either by government or private charities.

    Even by the admittedly lame standards of The Daily Tucker, the stoo-pid with this one was thick enough that it could be cut only with a hack saw.

    The author of this column is someone named D.B. Ganz, who apparently wrote something called Uncommon Sense and is published at a site called The Blaze. Since he shows no apparent knowledge of how one votes in this country based on his commentary, please allow me to provide the following information.

    I reside in Bucks County, Pennsylvania (not news I guess considering what I said earlier about the Turnpike), so when I registered to vote, I did so at the Bucks County Court House in Doylestown. Of course, I could have picked up a voter registration application elsewhere or even online, completed it, and mailed it in (or pressed a button and sent it into cyberspace). On the application, it is necessary to enter your basic demographic information, including your address.

    I honestly don’t remember how I found out where my polling location was; I could easily have accessed the Board of Elections link from buckscounty.org and done a bit of searching to find out where it is, or I could have called someone (maybe we were notified by mail?). What matters is that, when I found out where my polling location was (and I go to vote on Election Day or Primary Day), I notify a worker and they check my information to see if I am in their book. I sign the book on the line next to my name and demographic information after checking my info; of course, they now ask me for a voter ID, which they don’t enforce yet (I can provide a driver’s license, so it’s no big deal, even though I object to voter ID in principle of course).

    Here is my point (took awhile to get there, I know) – I cannot just vote anywhere I want! I have to vote in the area where I live and where I am registered to do so (to prevent to supposed rampant “voter fraud” that the Repugs profess to hate). So that proves that Ganz doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    I actually grew a little curious about Ganz, so I read up on him and found another column where he said that supporting health care reform was “short sighted and cruel,” or something. Which I thought was a really curious observation, seeing that Ganz is, “a long-time student of ancient Jewish texts, primarily the Talmud,” and Israel has universal health care with an individual mandate, as noted here.

  • Finally, and in observance of the recent 205th birthday of Abraham Lincoln, former Bushie Glenn Hubbard tells us the following here

    What would a mobility-enhancing agenda for today propose? A dynamic economy requires support for innovation, market expansion, and entrepreneurial risk-taking. “I know of nothing so pleasant to the mind as the discovery of anything which is at once new and valuable,” Lincoln said. Higher federal spending on basic research, trade-promotion authority, and business-tax reform to reduce marginal tax rates on income from business investments are important.

    Republicans should not be timid here. Lincoln was not: He expanded land ownership (the Homestead Act of 1862), access to higher education (the Morrill Act of 1862, with support for land-grant colleges across the states), and the scale and scope of commerce and trade (the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862, which supported the transcontinental railroad).

    Lincoln’s crusade for economic development was a lifetime political agenda. Just as the opportunity agenda he championed is much bolder than many conservatives appear willing to propose today, he was much less mired in emphasizing inequality than today’s Left. “I don’t believe in a law to prevent a man from getting rich; it would do more harm than good,” he said. “[But] while we do not propose any war upon capital, we do wish to allow the humblest man an equal chance to get rich with everybody else.”

    Fair enough (aside from the “ooga booga” nonsense about “today’s Left”), but let’s let the following also be known about our 16th president – as noted here, Lincoln definitely fought income inequality, particularly when it profited the banks (though he was once a lawyer for railroad companies also, which wasn’t in any way illegal I realize). And in opposition, Hubbard has called for expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit – that’s nice, but that, along with food stamps, housing allowances, heating assistance and Medicaid, have turned into welfare for corporations, subsidized by the taxpayers of course, as noted here.

    And on the subject of labor and capital, please allow me to quote President Lincoln once more (here)…

    Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.

    I would also like to point out the following about Lincoln (from “Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin, pg. 104)…

    Lincoln’s abhorrence to hurting another was born of more than simple compassion. He possessed extraordinary empathy – the gift or curse of putting himself in the place of another, to experience what they were feeling, to understand their motives and desires. The philosopher Adam Smith described this faculty: “By the imagination we place ourselves in his situation…we enter as it were into his body and become in some measure him.” This capacity Smith saw as “the source of our fellow-feeling for the misery of others…by changing places in fancy with the sufferer…we come either to conceive or to be affected by what he feels.” In a world environed by cruelty and injustice, Lincoln’s remarkable empathy was inevitably a source of pain. His sensibilities were not only acute, they were raw. “With his wealth of sympathy, his conscience, and his unflinching sense of justice, he was predestined to sorrow,” observed Helen Nicolay, whose father would become Lincoln’s private secretary.

    Though Lincoln’s empathy was at the root of his melancholy, it would prove an enormous asset to his political career. “His crowning gift of political diagnosis,” suggested Nicolay, “was due to his sympathy…which gave him the power to forecast with uncanny accuracy what his opponents were likely to do.” She described how, after listening to his colleagues talk at a Whig Party caucus, Lincoln would cast off his shawl, rise from his chair, and say: “From your talk, I gather the Democrats will do so and so…I should do so and so to checkmate them.” He proceeded to outline all “the moves for days ahead; making them all so plain that his listeners wondered why they had not seen it that way themselves.” Such capacity to intuit the inner feelings and intentions of others would be manifest throughout his career.

    And based on this signature moment from Hubbard, I would say that he has a thing or two to learn in the empathy department.


  • Monday Mashup (1/21/13)

    January 21, 2013

    murrow_0

  • I give you some recent lessons in journalistic priorities from the Bucks County Courier Times:
  • On today’s front page, the banner headline has to do with the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court, which isn’t even today (the decision was handed down on January 22, 1973). That takes up the most real estate on the page.
  • Slightly below the middle fold is a reference to the fact that today is the observation of the holiday and day of service for The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Way, waaay down in the lower left corner is a wire service article reminded us that, oh yeah, President Obama is being sworn in for a second term today.
  • The banner headline and story on the front page yesterday had to do with a home invasion and killing in Hilltown Township, which of course is tragic and merits front-page treatment. Immediately beneath the story, though, is an article about all the pro-gun rallies on Saturday January 19th, with a picture of a woman taking aim at a target presumably on a firing range (the image and words communicate the impression that what you might call the gun culture is something to be admired…um, if they wanted to communicate that, couldn’t they do it some other way that juxtaposing it with a story about a murder on the front page?).
  • The fourth estate freak show drags on…

    Update 1/22/13: To be fair, I should note that the inauguration got the “full spread” front page treatment today, including a nice pic of the Obamas walking down Pennsylvania Avenue.

  • And I suppose it’s logical, then, to turn to this item from Mikey the Beloved (the story is dated from last April, but this definitely is a familiar refrain)…

    Members of Congress average annual salaries of $174,000 per year, according to the government.

    Taxpayers spend an estimated $111,000 per year on each lawmaker’s fringe benefits, medical coverage and pension.
    But all of that could be put on hold indefinitely, under a bill whose 40-plus co-sponsors were joined last week by Bucks County Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick.

    Fitzpatrick on Wednesday scheduled a media teleconference to urge passage of the proposed No Budget, No Pay Act.

    And the author of this gimmick, IMHO, is House “Democrat” Jim Cooper of Tennessee.

    However, since this Courier Times story comes from someone who is apparently an actual reporter as opposed to Mikey’s stenographer Gary Weckselblatt, we also learn the following…

    The federal government has several proposed budgets. The problem is no one can agree on them.

    In February, President Barack Obama released a proposed budget for fiscal year 2013. Republicans balked at the size of government programs and proposed deficit spending.

    In March, Republicans in Congress released their plan. The White House sharply criticized proposed changes to Medicare, Medicaid and food stamp programs.

    Last (April), U.S. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad signaled that no action was likely on any budgets until after the November election.

    So what could be wrong with Mikey’s “No Budget, No Pay” advocacy? Well, for starters, it could potentially violate the 27th amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as noted here.

    As Constitutional law professor Adam Winkler tells us…

    “The answer is unclear because the 27th Amendment has never been authoritatively interpreted by the Supreme Court,” Winkler said in an email. “Yet it seems almost certainly unconstitutional. Withholding pay effectively ‘var[ies] the compensation’ of lawmakers. The amendment doesn’t say only raises in pay are invalid. It refers to ‘varying the compensation.’ Just as a ‘bonus’ would vary lawmakers’ compensation, so does withholding money. This logic applies even if the pay is ultimately delivered to lawmakers. By outlawing ‘varying the compensation,’ the 27th Amendment prohibits laws that change when lawmakers receive pay, not just the amount they receive.”

    I see this whole thing ending up on the docket of Hangin’ Judge JR one of these days, and it’s anybody’s guess what will happen after that; wonder if he’d be in the mood for payback by letting the Repugs be dumb enough to cut their own pay, as well as that of everyone else in Congress, when you consider that Roberts has sparred with Congress (and the White House) over judicial funding, as noted here?.

  • Further, I give you the following absurdity from The Weakly Standard (here)…

    Since becoming the president of the United States of America, Barack Obama has delivered 699 speeches using a Teleprompter, according to statistics compiled by CBS reporter Mark Knoller. That number includes campaign speeches, State of the Union addresses, and everything in between.

    All told, according to Knoller, President Obama has made 1,852 speeches, remarks and comments.

    Obama’s given 35 “speeches in which he referred to Slurpees.” He’s held 58 town halls.

    The president’s gone golfing 113 times, playing 52 times close to the White House at Andrews Air Force Base.

    And Obama’s taken 13 vacations, which all told have spanned 83 days.

    These are the priorities for our corporate media as well as movement conservatism these days, my fellow prisoners: counting the number of times President Obama has gone golfing, how many slurpee references he has made in speeches, and how many times he has used a Teleprompter (And yes, I know “fluff” pieces like this are not unexpected for the inauguration, but let’s hope it doesn’t get any lower than this, OK?).

    And vacation days? Really?

    As noted here

    President Bush spent 32% of his presidency on vacation.

    Bush passed Reagan in total vacation days in 2005 with three and a half years left in his presidency. Reagan spent all or part of 335 days in Santa Barbara over his 8 year presidency. Bush spent 487 days at Camp David during his presidency and 490 days at his Crawford, Texas ranch, a total of 977 days.

    When you add the days President Bush spent at Kennebunkport, Maine, he spent a total of 1,020 days away from the White House — close to 3 years. At 1,020 days, Bush was close to being on vacation more days than President John F. Kennedy’s total days in office (1,036). Representatives at the Nixon and Johnson Libraries indicate those two Presidents were on vacation less than 1,000 days during their terms.

    President Obama has been on vacation (now 83) days from 2009 to (2013). At the three year mark into their first terms, George W. Bush spent 180 days at his ranch in Crawford, Texas and Ronald Reagan spent 112 vacation days at his ranch in California. Of course, staff was around all three Presidents on vacations and all White House aides argue that the commander-in-chief is never “out of touch” with work.

    Sure, Dubya and The Sainted Ronnie R were never “out of touch” with work. Of course not.

    Yes, I know I’ve pointed this out before. Yes, I have no doubt that it will be brought up once more and I’ll have to repeat it again since the shame impulse is nowhere to be found within right-wing media (and when it comes to golf, who can forget this infamous Dubya moment?).

  • Finally (and speaking of the prior Bushco regime and our corporate media), this tells us the following…

    Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has joined CBS News as a contributor — just in time for inauguration coverage.

    Rice, who served as secretary of state during President George W. Bush’s second term, made her debut on the network’s “Face the Nation” program Sunday and will be included in inauguration coverage on Monday.

    CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager and president David Rhodes made the announcement Sunday, saying Rice “will use her insight and vast experience to explore issues facing America at home and abroad.”

    Steve Benen does a good job of reminding us about what kind of a job Rice did on behalf of Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History, but I think it’s important to recall the following also:

  • Here, she was accused by Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, defendants in an espionage trial, of being complicit while AIPAC allegedly dictated US foreign policy from 1999 until the middle of the last decade at least (the post also links to a Think Progress post where Rice admits that Iraq is “a stain on her legacy” – ya’ think?).
  • Here, she “dressed down” a jewelry store clerk because Madame Rice thought he received less than stellar service (typical for the “pay no price, bear no burden” bunch).
  • As noted here, she was in the process of buying designer shoes while Katrina hit (terrible optics, if nothing else).
  • Condi and Defense Secretary Robert Gates met (in March ’08) with some of the Kremlin’s political opposition, but did not meet with its most vocal opponents, notably chess legend Garry Kasparov, as noted here.
  • Here, she gave, at the very least, a willing ear to Henry Kissinger, one of history’s most notorious liars, on the question of allowing troop withdrawals (or even the discussion of that topic) while Dubya’s Not-So-Excellent Adventure in Mesopotamia continued to disintegrate.
  • Rice said here that she had no interest in Mideast diplomacy to maintain “the status quo ante” while she was in the process of doing just that (here).
  • And yes, as alluded to earlier, Rice had a lot of company in her “hoocoodanode” mea culpa about 9/11, possibly her worst foreign policy failure of all (here).
  • It’s probably thoroughly naïve of me to feel compelled to point out that it’s not just any media organization that has agreed to give a pay check and air time to another Bushco accomplice, but the Columbia Broadcasting System (which was once called “the Tiffany Network”). CBS, which once employed the man who spoke the following words:

    If we confuse dissent with disloyalty — if we deny the right of the individual to be wrong, unpopular, eccentric or unorthodox…then hundreds of millions…who are shopping about for a new allegiance will conclude that we are concerned to defend a myth and our present privileged status. Every act that denies or limits the freedom of the individual in this country costs us the … confidence of men and women who aspire to that freedom and independence of which we speak and for which our ancestors fought.

    No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices.

    American traditions and the American ethic require us to be truthful, but the most important reason is that truth is the best propaganda and lies are the worst. To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful. It is as simple as that.

    We cannot make good news out of bad practice.

    We hardly need to be reminded that we are living in an age of confusion — a lot of us have traded in our beliefs for bitterness and cynicism or for a heavy package of despair, or even a quivering portion of hysteria. Opinions can be picked up cheap in the market place while such commodities as courage and fortitude and faith are in alarmingly short supply.

    Our history will be what we make it. And if there are any historians about fifty or a hundred years from now, and there should be preserved the kinescopes for one week of all three networks, they will there find recorded in black and white, or color, evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live.

    murrow_0
    Even though I’m curious to find out what he would have said, I’m still glad that Edward R. Murrow didn’t live to see any of this.


  • Thursday Mashup (11/1/12)

    November 2, 2012

  • Only in the utterly bizarro world of the Washington Times could Obama or any other president find himself (or herself one day – ?) in a position where they need to defend a prompt and proactive response to a disaster affecting multiple states.
  • Also, I came across this item from supposed “values warrior” Michael Medved of clownnhall.com (here)…

    Catholic clergy and lay leaders, for instance, regularly acknowledge that nothing has done more to erase anti-Catholic prejudice than the emergence of the pro-life movement after Roe v. Wade. The close cooperation of traditional Catholics and evangelical Protestants in building opposition to abortion on demand destroyed the insulting old stereotypes of hard-drinking, garlic-reeking, immigrant papists versus sweaty Bible Belt snake handlers and led both groups to new respect for one another.

    Yeah, I’m sure glad those “insulting old stereotypes” that Medved has to go out of his way to tell us about have been destroyed. Aren’t you?

    In response, I give you the following from here

    Right-wingers politically love abortion. It’s a reliably contentious social wedge issue that gives their Teapublican candidates a twenty-point spot in every campaign. That’s why, while pretending to hate the 1973, 7-2 Supreme Court decision Roe v Wade, they really don’t. The brighter among them fully realize that if Roe v. Wade were ever to be overturned, there would be two immediate and unacceptable consequences. The loss of that political wedge issue and the necessity of pregnant Pro Lifers to go underground to have their own inevitable abortions, just like their liberal sisters. It’s instructive to note that in New York City, once abortions became legal, there was a 45% annual drop in maternal mortality, a figure matched by North Carolina at about the same time.

    The fact is that no matter how much Roe v. Wade faux-opposition is evidenced, no matter how morally superior the right-wing ladies (and their gentleman supporters) purport to be, no matter their participation in numerous anti-abortion marches waving their ‘liberals are baby-killers’ placards, no matter their bowed heads at their preachers latest anti-abortion rant, no matter what their sanctimonious spokespeople spew out on Fox…there are just as many conservative women aborting, or mighty close to it, as their liberal counterparts.

    Let’s look at some objective, apolitical numbers from the non-partisan Guttmacher Institute. First, a shocker. Nearly 22% of all pregnancies end in abortion. A total of 3 in 10 women will have an abortion by age 45. More than half of abortions are performed on women in the 20s age range. Since Roe v. Wade, there have been well over 50 million abortions. How many of those abortions do you think were performed on right-wing women? None? That’s what they would have you believe. None. Without citing a single statistic, do you really think all 50 million women who had those abortions were liberals? Just given the fact that there are more teen pregnancies in Red States, some of which would end in abortion, would give lie to that fact.

    And while the results of the study published here aren’t quite four years old, I cannot imagine that the results have changed much over that time, particularly since, as the Think Progress post also notes, a study with similar results was conducted in 2005 also.

    But I don’t suppose that’s something you’ll hear from an author of a couple of “Golden Turkey” movie books who decided to “rebrand” as a right-wing media mouthpiece (oh, but I guess that’s an “insulting old stereotype,” isn’t it? Ooopsie!).

  • Next, somebody decided to pay attention to the demented ramblings of the “Motor City Madman” again (here), telling us, among other supposed pearls of wisdom, that “America got softer and learned to get away with mediocrity and outright slovenliness.”

    Hmm, “mediocrity and outright slovenliness,” huh? Why does that ring a bell? Still thinking

    Continuing…

    Nugent: The soul-stirring, grinding, defiant soul music by the original black masters will remain inspiring and timeless for eternity to real music lovers everywhere. Howling Wolf, Bo Diddly (sic), Chuck Berry, Little Richard, all things Motown, James Brown, Wilson Picket, Otis Redding, and all the gifted musicians since who celebrate that musical authority will always make me dance and squirm. Detroit continues to produce masterful musical talent like Kid Rock, Eminem, Jack White, Chad Smith, drummer for the Chili Peppers and Chickenfoot, and others that always deliver that original soul with their own style and touch. I just wrapped up the most exciting, high-energy, ferocious tour of my life in 2012, and the best, most intense music of my life was propelled by Mick Brown on drums, Greg Smith on bass and Derek St. Holmes on guitar and vocals and record-setting gung-ho audiences who crave such excellence and passion just like we do.

    I was just wondering as I read this – does Nugent know that Chad Smith and the Chilis support President Obama (about whom Ted said he’d rather be “dead or in jail” if Number 44 wins re-election here…since Nugent was dumb enough to give himself those two alternatives, I don’t really care which one he chooses).

  • Further, I happened to stumble across the following partisan screed from Jennifer Rubin at the WaPo here, who claimed that Willard Mitt Romney has supposedly “locked up” independents…

    The Romney-Ryan campaign and independent Republican pollsters are buoyed by the indisputable and near universal polling fact in the presidential race: Mitt Romney is winning big among independents. The conservative polling and research firm Resurgent Republic released its final batch of polling, finding Romney leads President Obama among Independents by a 51 to 39 percent margin nationally. By comparison George W. Bush won independents by 2 points in 2000 and lost independents by one point in 2004.

    Oh, and according to Repug pollster Whit Ayres, what supposedly turned it around was the debates; well, maybe the first one, but after that, I’m not buying…Ayres, by the way, said here that the Repugs could “run on” the Hamdan v. Rumsfeld ruling, in which the Supremes declared that the Bush administration’s proposal to use military commissions for the trials of terrorism detainees violated the Geneva Conventions and could not be enacted without congressional approval (uh, yeah…right – regarding Ayres, I mean).

    Besides, as we learn from here

    Where most political commentators output is the product of briefings, gossip and personal perception, (pollster Nate) Silver deals in cold, hard facts. And at the moment, Silver’s facts are being fired like bullets into the heart of the Romney campaign.

    Simply put, Romney is trying to generate momentum by simply proclaiming that momentum exists, even though the statistical evidence definitely tells us something wholly other (here).

    (Oh, and by the way, class act by Joe Scar to tell everyone Silver is wrong but not to respond to Silver’s gesture in response here…to update, it looks like Scarborough agreed to donate to the Red Cross, so good for him; it looks like he sort of responded – stay tuned).

    Update 11/7/12: The short answer to this, I’m sure, is never, unfortunately.

  • And I swear, I should just ignore The Moustache of Understanding, but I didn’t again (here, in which Tom Friedman returns to his hometown in Minnesota to use his supposed wisdom to inform us of how St. Louis Park is supposed to be a political bellwether)…

    Many business-oriented Republicans here are not only voting for Klobuchar but are giving her money, because they’ve become frustrated by the far-right lurch of the state G.O.P., explained Lawrence Jacobs, a politics expert at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. The state is home to many global companies that would accept some tax increases to build better infrastructure and schools in order to have better-educated workers. And the Republican-dominated Chamber of Commerce here is leading the charge for open immigration, so Minnesota can bring in more knowledge workers from India to enrich its work force.

    I would slap a Franklin down on the table right now to see Friedman show up for work tomorrow and find out that Ravi Kumaristan Patel is now sitting behind his desk, and Friedman has to teach him his job before Friedman is laid off.

    (And by the way, that comment is not meant to belittle Indians. If someone receives an opportunity and they make the most of it, good for them. My problem is with the hiring managers and HR numbskulls who decide to give that opportunity to someone new to this country at the expense of a seasoned professional who has spent his or her life here building a career but is having an extraordinarily hard time finding work, all for the sake of a would-be employer saving about $5K or a little more in salary and benefits.)

    And Friedman finishes with the following…

    In the 1990s, centrist Democrats, led by Bill Clinton, brought their party back from a similar ideological ledge; they and the country and my home state are better for it.

    To me, that is highly debatable. Yes, this country had a really good run under Clinton, and there’s no denying it. However, did you know that The Heritage Foundation, of all people, called the ’96 Clinton budget “a bold privatization document” here?

    And columnist Joseph Palermo tells us the following here

    The Democratic leadership at (around 1992-1994) apparently believed that by capitulating to the Republican-Blue Dog agenda on “free trade” (NAFTA), and screwing over labor unions, one of the key Democratic constituencies, the GOP and their Blue Dog brethren would cooperate on health care reform. It was a monumental error in judgment that cost the Democratic Party dearly. Health care reform was just as popular among the public then as it is today.

    The Democrats showed the country that even with majorities in both houses of Congress and the presidency they could not deliver largely due to Blue Dog obstructionism. All the Democrats had to show for their efforts going into the 1994 midterm elections was a very pissed off labor movement and a failed attempt to help working people attain affordable health care. On election day Democrats stayed home and the Newt Gingrich “revolution” seized Washington launching a fourteen-year period of misrule the consequences of which we are still dealing with today.

    Ironically, in the 1980s, the Democratic Party had sustained itself better than during the Clinton years because it was forced to mobilize against the administrations of Reagan and Bush the Elder. In the 1990s, once the Blue Dogs and their champion Bill Clinton was in power the Democratic Party experienced a precipitous decline in power and influence nationally, which paved the way for the Tom DeLay/George W. Bush years.

    And let’s not forget how “darlings” of the Democratic Leadership Council (which remade the party in its corporatist image prior to Clinton’s election) such as Mark Warner and Harold Ford rallied to the defense of Bain Capital when the latter’s “fee fees” got a little hurt earlier in this wretched election cycle, as noted here (actually, this is probably closer to what I originally had in mind…a related post is here).

    I realize none of this is going to change the hopelessly jaded point of view of “Mr. Suck. On. This.” But every time it occurs to me that the Democratic Party of today has not one blessed word to say about poverty, gun control, the environment or this country’s ever-perpetuating economic inequality, I thank the corporatist “Bush Dog” Dems who set us down that sorry path (and while it may be a little cold to cite 1992 as the milestone for that, that is the clearest demarcation point I can find).

  • Finally (and speaking Dubya’s wretched reign), I give you this

    Twenty-three million people unemployed or underemployed, a $16-trillion debt and repeated trillion-dollar deficits.

    Boo.

    The scariest thing this Halloween has nothing to do with witches and goblins or even the Munsters remake (ugh). The scariest thing in America right now is the continued awful economy.

    An incumbent president running for re-election in a down economy – we’ve heard that story before. Only when we heard it last time, George W. Bush was running for re-election in 2004 and the economy was in remarkably fine shape.

    BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!

    Oh dear God, that’s funny – in response, I give you the following from here (from September ’04)…

    The (Labor Department) report could give a lift to the Bush campaign, coming just hours after the Republicans renominated him. The president and his advisers like to point to the nearly 1.7 million jobs created since August 2003.

    But the Kerry campaign notes that despite the recent job gains, the economy has still lost about 1 million jobs since Bush took office in early 2001, meaning Bush is likely to become the first president since the Depression era’s Herbert Hoover to complete his term with an overall drop in U.S. payrolls.

    Roger Altman, senior economic advisor to Kerry, told CNNfn that even with the most recent gain, the administration’s job performance has been weak.

    “You need about 150,000 new jobs a month to keep even with growth in population,” he said. “Taken in proper context, it’s just not a very good record.”

    The report showed less strength in the labor market than in the spring, when the economy created an average of nearly 300,000 jobs a month from March through May.

    But after two months of weak reports, the latest number and the revisions to June and July brought the three-month average to just over 100,000.

    In its report, the department said manufacturing and construction showed gains and the service sector added 108,000 jobs. Education and health services posted a seasonally adjusted 45,000 gain, and the government added 24,000 jobs.

    Average hourly wages rose 5 cents to $15.77. Over the last 12 months average hourly wages have risen 2.3 percent, not keeping pace with the rate of inflation.

    “The report is still a poor one given what has come before, but not terrible,” economist Robert Brusca of FAO Economics wrote in a note after the report. “There is no reason to think it is weak enough to put the Fed on hold.” But Brusca said a rate hike at that meeting would be a mistake, given the economy’s mediocre strength.

    “The outlook remains poor,” said University of Maryland Business School professor Peter Morici. “Production cutbacks at Ford and GM, mediocre personal income growth and record trade deficits all bode poorly for economic growth and jobs creation.”

    And as long as we’re talking about Dubya, Obama and jobs, I give you what should be the last word here (and to help Number 44, click here).

    Update 11/2/12: More evidence is here.


  • Douthat Denial And “Pro Life” Pabulum

    December 9, 2008

    douthat1_47e9a94b5a116_mdIn the Sunday New York Times, we were treated to some true historical revisionism in the perpetual struggle between pro-choice and “pro-life” forces on the matter of abortion by Ross Douthat, who is a bit of a cause célèbre among Repugs because of the book he co-wrote with the Gingrichian (word?) title of “Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream.”

    I can barely contain my joy (yawn).

    Douthat critiques those who challenge the pro-lifers and thus aspire to “care for life outside the womb” too, “change hearts and minds rather than the law,” and “cease trying to roll back the sexual revolution and standing athwart science yelling ‘stop’!”

    He continues…

    Obviously there’s wisdom in some of these suggestions. But pro-lifers have already taken much of it to heart. Compromise, rather than absolutism, has been the watchword of anti-abortion efforts for some time now. Since the early 1990s, advocates have focused on pushing largely modest state-level restrictions, from parental notification laws to waiting periods to bans on what we see as the grisliest forms of abortion.

    This is one of the reasons why I honestly try not to say anything about abortion, and basically why I think no man should either, and that is because we will never be “in the stirrups.”

    This post takes you to the testimonials of four women for whom parental notification laws and (in the case of Alabama) introduction of a bill that would “ban all abortions except in the ‘extreme’ case of danger to the mother’s life and find ‘any person’ causing or participating in an abortion guilty of a Class B felony” are hardly “largely modest state-level restrictions.” Also, this takes you to what I thought was some interesting common ground between McCain and Obama supporters concerning education, birth control, and providing assistance to unwed mothers.

    Douthat continues…

    Apart from its Supreme Court appointments, the Bush administration policy most influenced by pro-life sentiment was probably its AIDS-in-Africa initiative.

    Unfortunately, as Jonathan Alter of Newsweek tells us here, Bush’s “pro-life” sentiment was also responsible for his dreadful veto of funding for embryonic stem cell research (remember that one?).

    And speaking of that…

    …we’re coming off a decade in which pro-lifers responded to the embryonic stem-cell controversy by becoming better versed in the relevant science than their miracle-cure-promising opponents. They insisted, presciently, that scientific advances with non-fetal stem cells, rather than legal restrictions, would eventually offer a way forward.

    As noted here…

    only embryonic stem cells are capable of growing into any other type of cell — which is why scientists are most interested in working with them.

    Embryonic stem cells hold much greater potential for treatment of diseases than adult stem cells. I’m not a scientist, but even I know that; I don’t know what is so “prescient” about failing to use developmental stem cells that aren’t even close to constituting a human embryo when they’re only going to be discarded anyway.

    And I wanted to take note of the following also…

    In theory, there are many middle grounds imaginable in America’s abortion wars, from bans that make exceptions for rape and fetal deformities to legal systems modeled on the French system, in which abortion is available but discouraged in the first 10 weeks and sharply restricted thereafter.

    That’s basically true as far as I can determine, though I don’t recall reading about French President Nicolas Sarkozy implementing a “midnight rule” making it harder for women to access birth control and abortion services as Dubya did here.

    Douthat also states that the Supreme Court’s ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey is “(a) monument to pro-choice absolutism,” which to me is fascinating given the fact that only one of the five PA abortion law restrictions written by pro-life governor Bob Casey Sr. were ultimately overruled by the high court, and that pertained to spousal notification.

    And I simply don’t know what to say in response to this sentence from Douthat: “(The movement’s task must remain the same) not because pro-lifers are absolutists who reject compromise, but because any real compromise will always depend on overturning Roe.”

    On the contrary; I think, given this, that “overturning Roe” is as “absolutist” of a position as I can possibly imagine.


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