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…

  • Advertisements

    Tuesday Mashup (6/18/13)

    June 18, 2013
  • I give you the following hilarity from The Daily Tucker (here)…

    The House of Representatives voted late (on 6/7) to prohibit the Department of Homeland Security from using taxpayer dollars to buy and stockpile ammunition until they provide a “comprehensive report” to Congress on its ammunition usage, purchase history and contracting practices.

    “Prior to committing taxpayer dollars for ammunition contracts, we must ensure that government agencies justify the necessity and cost to both Congress and the American people,” said Representative Mark Meadows (R.-N.C.), the amendment’s author.

    The House approved the amendment to H.R. 2217, Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2014, by a 234-192 vote. Notably, eighteen democrats supported the amendment and only thirteen republicans opposed. Meadows cited concerns over the current practices and purchases of the Department as justification for the proposal.

    As noted here, though…

    Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) said the amendment was unnecessary based on his talks with DHS officials. Carter said the department has since admitted that its ammunition needs are not as great as first reported, and said the department is pursuing a bulk purchase to keep the costs down.


    And just for the record, Mikey the Beloved voted for this idiocy, as noted here. In addition, here are the 18 “Democrats” who went along with it also (a pox on their respective houses):

    Bill Foster (IL-11)
    Brian Higgins (NY-26)
    Charles Rangel (NY-13)
    Collin Peterson (MN-7)
    Daniel Maffei (NY-24)
    Derek Kilmer (WA-6)
    Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
    Jared Polis (CO-2)
    Jim Matheson (UT-4)
    John Garamendi (CA-3)
    Juan Vargas (CA-51)
    Kurt Schrader (OR-5)
    Mike McIntyre (NC-7)
    Nick Rahall (WV-3)
    Pete DeFazio (OR-4)
    Tony Cardenas (CA-29)
    Tulsi Gabbard (HI-2)
    William Owens (NY-21)

    (I’m surprised to see Rangel and DeFazio on that list, since I definitely thought they knew better.)

    By the way, did you know that the notion that DHS is buying up all the ammo is so nutty that it has even been debunked by the NRA (here)? So where did it come from, then? Why, Alex Jones of course (here). I guess stuff like this plays in Meadows’ district, he having won the seat formerly held by the less-than-useless Heath Shuler in a contest against conservadem Hayden Rogers (here).

    And just as a reminder, this tells us that Meadows was one of the U.S. House Repugs who voted against disaster relief funding for the victims of Hurricane Sandy (nice guy).

  • Next, I saw this at CNN recently, and I think it deserves more attention than it received, so…

    The nation benefits when top scientists…contribute their efforts to the federal agencies. But civil service scientists are at a significant competitive disadvantage, thanks to new travel restrictions.

    At first glance, it might sound like a good idea to keep government employees and contractors from traveling to distant cities to meet with colleagues. After all, budgets are tight and travel costs money. Stories about excessive spending at government conferences involving the IRS and GSA have rightly angered taxpayers who have had to tighten their own belts.

    But the Astronomical Society conference is strictly business and the downside of missing it is considerable: The government loses touch, government scientists fall behind and we all lose an opportunity to forge ahead. For NASA, which funds about 300,000 jobs at more than a dozen NASA centers and facilities, its cap of 50 civil service scientists and contractors (or even100, possible only with a waiver) at an American Astronomical Society meeting is very low.

    Science careers are attractive in many ways, but across the country, sequestration is devastating budgets for research. In many disciplines, 10 proposals for new research projects are rejected for every one that is funded. This turns serious scientific progress into a scattershot lottery and discourages students from pursuing the kind of research careers that fuel our economy in the long term.

    Young people are attracted to science through astronomy. Students come to our talks, star parties and classes. Fascination about black holes and dark energy motivates them to study critical subjects like physics, mathematics and computing. Astronomy research experiences for undergraduates — funded by the National Science Foundation, among others — are an effective way to retain students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM, majors.

    STEM disciplines are critical for the future of our nation. The skills for astronomy are used in many other fields of science, not to mention areas like data mining and computing that are at the heart of modern businesses.

    As a follow-up, it should be noted that Crazy Tom Coburn sponsored amendments basically barring the National Science Foundation from conducting political science research (and before you cheer that, note the fact that this affects basically “any and all research in any and all disciplines funded by the NSF” as noted in a linked story from The Huffington Post). The Daily Kos post also tells us that Lamar Smith, GOP chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, falsely charged that scientists hid data that supposedly contradicted the science on man-made climate change (wonder if that came from Glenn Beck or Jones, or both?).

    And as noted here, Smith has pushed a bill requiring that the “NSF submit to the committee the technical peer review discussions conducted among NSF scientists who decide on grant awards” (great, just what we need – politicians deciding what scientific development projects should be funded; I might be OK with that if everyone in Congress had the background of, say, Rush Holt, who is a legitimate scientist also, but that is hardly the case).

    Oh, and as noted in the prior Daily Kos post, who did Smith appoint as chairman of the committee’s Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight? Only the guy responsible for this. And as noted here, both Smith and Broun are charter members of the Tea Party caucus.

    I’ll let the following excerpt from here sum things up a bit…

    The National Laboratories aren’t just crucial to America’s scientific infrastructure. They are also powerful engines of economic development. Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Solow has calculated that over the past half century, more than half of the growth in our nation’s GDP has been rooted in scientific discoveries — the kinds of fundamental, mission-driven research that we do at the labs. This early-stage research has led to extraordinary real-world benefits, from nuclear power plants to compact fluorescent bulbs to blood cholesterol tests. Because the United States has historically valued scientific inspiration, our government has provided creative scientists and engineers with the support, facilities, and time they need to turn brilliant ideas into real-world solutions.

    Basing funding decisions solely on short-term fiscal goals risks the heart of America’s scientific enterprise and long-term economic growth — diminishing our world leadership in science, technology and in the creation of cutting-edge jobs.

    Sequestration won’t have an immediate, visible impact on American research. Laboratories will continue to open their doors, and scientists and engineers will go to work. But as we choke off our ability to pursue promising new ideas, we begin a slow but inexorable slide to stagnation. We can’t afford to lose a generation of new ideas and forfeit our national future.

    So just remember to “thank” a Teahadist if you ever encounter one of these individuals for our continually depressed economy and employment opportunities, to say nothing of strangling funding for technologies such as those I’ve just noted that could lead to job growth and return us to a measure of middle-class prosperity once again. Heckuva job!

    Update 7/9/13: And here is more on how the sequester supposedly isn’t hurting anyone (here too).

    Update 8/16/13: Ditto here.

  • Continuing (and sticking with the theme of science a bit), I came across this item recently from The Weakly Standard…

    Mention Ronald Reagan to an avowed environmentalist, and you’ll generally elicit a groan. In the conventional telling, the Gipper appointed right-wing extremists to key environmental positions and proceeded to give timber companies and energy interests a free hand to despoil nature. Had Congress not stopped him, the tale goes, all of the environmental progress of the 1970s would have been swept away in the 1980s.

    This tale fits certain historical narratives, and Reagan’s successor, George H. W. Bush, arguably helped promote it by allowing his own appointees, some of them drawn from the ranks of professional environmentalists, to criticize the Reagan administration and its policies.

    Reagan’s actual environmental record is quite a bit more nuanced. It’s true he did not follow the command-and-control regulatory approach favored by his predecessor, Jimmy Carter, or even fellow California Republican Richard Nixon, who created the Environmental Protection Agency and signed both the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. But the approach Reagan did take—endeavoring to protect nature without expanding government or hurting the economy—may offer a blueprint, particularly in these times of sharp partisan division, for a conservation agenda that small government conservatives, libertarians, and conservationists alike can embrace.

    By standards of typical wingnuttia, I have to say that there’s a measure of truth in a lot of what Eli Lehrer points out here, particularly on cap and trade and the so-called Montreal Protocol to phase out ozone-layer-depleting, climate change-promoting chlorofluorocarbons, as noted here.

    However, it would be disingenuous to talk about Number 40 on the subject of the environment and not also point out that as good as Reagan was on the stuff noted above, he was awful when it came to exporting health-endangering pesticides that were banned in the U.S., as noted here.

    Lehrer also tells us the following:

    A similar approach was applied in the 1985 farm bill, which required farmers receiving federal subsidies to comply with various conservation standards before they could cultivate erosion-prone soils and forbade the use of federal money to drain wetlands. These standards, currently under fire as Congress considers a huge new farm bill, have saved money while avoiding hundreds of millions of tons of soil erosion and protecting millions of acres of wetlands.

    Does Lehrer mean the 1985 farm bill that Reagan vetoed, which provided badly needed credit to farmers, a veto lowlighted by The Sainted One’s statement that “we should keep the grain and export the farmers” (here)?

    I believe what follows, though, is a more representative sampling of what passed for environmental policy under Reagan (from here, written after his death in 2004)…

    The list of rollbacks attempted by (James Watt and Anne Gorsuch, the leaders Reagan selected to head the Department of Interior and the U.S. EPA, respectively) is as sweeping as those of the current administration. Gorsuch tried to gut the Clean Air Act with proposals to weaken pollution standards “on everything from automobiles to furniture manufacturers — efforts which took Congress two years to defeat,” according to (Phil Clapp, president of National Environmental Trust). Moves to weaken the Clean Water Act were equally aggressive, crescendoing (sic) in 1987 when Reagan vetoed a strong reauthorization of the act only to have his veto overwhelmingly overridden by Congress. Assaults on Superfund were so hideous that Rita Lavelle, director of the program, was thrown in jail for lying to Congress under oath about corruption in her agency division.

    The gutting of funds for environmental protection was another part of Reagan’s legacy. “EPA budget cuts during Reagan’s first term were worse than they are today,” said Frank O’Donnell, director of Clean Air Trust, who reported on environmental policy for The Washington Monthly during the Reagan era. “The administration tried to cut EPA funding by more than 25 percent in its first budget proposal,” he said. And massive cuts to Carter-era renewable-energy programs “set solar back a decade,” said Clapp.

    Topping it all off were efforts to slash the EPA enforcement program: “The enforcement slowdown was staggering,” said a staffer at the House Energy and Commerce Committee who helped investigate the Reagan administration’s enforcement of environmental laws during the early ’80s. “In the first year of the Reagan administration, there was a 79 percent decline in the number of enforcement cases filed from regional offices to EPA headquarters, and a 69 percent decline in the number of cases filed from the EPA to the Department of Justice.”

    And when it comes to Reagan and science, let’s not forget about his episode with the solar panels his predecessor, Jimmy Carter, installed on the White House, mentioned above and also noted here (I don’t want to even imagine how much further along this country would be in clean energy development were it not for that sorry episode in particular; Reagan “almost single-handedly ruined American leadership” in that industry, as noted here).

    What else could we have expected, though, from a guy who once said that 80 percent of the hydrocarbon pollution on earth came from vegetation (uh, no – and as far as signing the strictest air pollution laws in the U.S., as the Reagan hagiographers would have us believe, the credit for that goes to Ronnie’s predecessor as CA governor, Pat Brown, both of which are noted here).

  • Finally (and returning to the Teahadists), I give you the following (here)…

    The bipartisan immigration reform proposal currently under consideration in the Senate should have been introduced in the House first, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said Monday.

    “It’s a good thing that for an … immigration bill to pass, it’s gotta pass the House. This is the more difficult hurdle, so let’s start there,” Johnson said in an interview on radio station 1130 WISN. “It could’ve guided the Senate’s actions.”

    That might be the most cowardly anti-immigration argument that I’ve ever heard (sniff, sniff – “the House should have come out with theirs first – WAAAHHH!”).

    I guess Johnson needs a lesson in Congressional procedure. As noted here, the House does indeed have its own version of an immigration bill (which, of course, doesn’t provide a path to legal citizenship for undocumented workers, unless a judge approves it – peachy). If both bills pass (fairly certain despite Johnson in the Senate I think, as well as “Calgary” Cruz, but highly problematic in the U.S. “House of Tea”), then they’ll be worked into a single bill via a House-Senate committee. If the new, merged bill from the committee passes both bodies of Congress, it will go to Number 44 for either his signature or his veto.

    It’s more than a little pathetic to me that Johnson needs to be told this, to say nothing of the fact that dunderheaded voters in Wisconsin voted him into office in the first place (though we have nothing to brag about in PA with “No Corporate Tax” Toomey, despite his recent good work on guns).

    All of this is typical Beltway kabuki in the end, though. No less a Republican Party “elder” than Huckleberry Graham (and what does that tells us about their current state?) has pointed out that it doesn’t matter who his party runs in 2016 if immigration fails (here). Which is a very real possibility.

    That would be a terrible tragedy on personal, human terms, to say nothing of a totally low political farce.

    Update: Your daily dose of fail from “Orange Man” here


  • Thursday Mashup (1/10/13)

    January 10, 2013
  • This post at The Hill tells us the following…

    The 112th Congress adjourned last week without reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The failure of Congress to pass either the Senate- or House-approved (S. 1925 or H.R. 4970) versions was the by-product both of partisan wrangling, as well as acerbic personal attacks that were later derided by the Huffington Post as “incendiary and extreme.”

    But the last-ditch negotiations between Vice President Joe Biden and House Leader Eric Cantor side-stepped the most important question of all: Are VAWA-funded programs working?

    Most VAWA funds are directed to beefing up the criminal justice system’s response to domestic violence. But according to Angela Moore Parmley, PhD of the Department of Justice, “We have no evidence to date that VAWA has led to a decrease in the overall levels of violence against women.”

    Really? Then how come we learn from here that “VAWA has dramatically reduced intimate partner violence: the Department of Justice estimates the reduction at 64% from 1993 to 2010. “

    And as noted here

    Since 1994, this landmark legislation has been funding clinics, shelters, and hotlines for victims in crisis across the country, and provided tremendously important tools for law enforcement to crack down on abusers and rapists. Over the past year, VAWA has trained 500,000 law enforcement officers and judicial officials, and provided a national crisis hotline that served 264,000 victims.

    The first Hill column with the anti-VAWA point of view was written by E. Everett Bartlett, president, Stop Abusive and Violent Environments.

    And yes, SAVE is indeed a right-wing “astroturf” group, as noted here. As Laura Basset of HuffPo reported, SAVE’s treasurer “has a major financial interest in reducing immigrant protections,” with SAVE Services having strong ties to a group called Encounter International, which, in one case, matched an American with a Russian bride who claimed that she was beaten regularly by him (not going to pretend that I know the whole story, but I only want to point out what is at least a potential for conflict of interest).

    As far as I’m concerned, SAVE can participate in whatever legal business it chooses. However, it shouldn’t pass itself off as an advocacy group as well.

  • Next, Mikey the Beloved is back for the new Congressional session, this time with a gimmicky bill to freeze the pay of federal workers (here).

    Want to know why this is a bad idea? From here

    Federal employees already have sacrificed $103 billion over 10 years to deficit reduction $60 billion of which has come directly from freezing salaries in 2011 and 2012. President Obama has delayed until April the already-paltry 0.5% adjustment proposed for 2013, so the actual raise would amount to just 0.25% for the fiscal year. Yet even that tiny increase isn’t harsh enough for Congressman Fitzpatrick.

    Rep. Fitzpatrick has decided to add insult to injury, literally, by maligning the federal employees in his district and proposing to punish all federal workers with an entirely unwarranted extension of the pay freeze for all of 2013.

    Reducing the salaries of federal workers through an extended pay freeze is a cheap political ploy, AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. Not only does it inflict tremendous damage on the families of these modestly paid workers, more than half of whom are veterans, but it also hits the communities where these employees live, since they will continue to be unable to afford any kind of economic activity beyond paying for the bare necessities of living.

    Gosh, what a shame those pesky government workers can’t pull down $175K a year like you do, huh Mikey?

    And Fitzpatrick’s U.S. House pal Bob Latta is opposing a medical device tax in the Affordable Care Act (here).

    As noted here, though…

    I heard convincing arguments in favor of the tax from … several executives of medical device making firms in Massachusetts! Bob DeAngelis, an executive with Katahdin, told me that he had no problem with the tax and didn’t see it having much impact on his 150-person firm. “I’m not terribly upset we’re going to have a tax on medical devices. I think it’s overblown,” he said. “Scott Brown says we ‘shouldn’t be taxing the job creators.’ That sounds great but what does that mean. He’s not talking about me. I’m going to hire based on people buying my product.

    Oh, and as noted here, Latta is pretty stinky on the environment too, voting against increased federal protections for Lake Erie, which is a bit of a problem with Latta being from Ohio and all.

  • Further Wisconsin U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Teahadist) agreed recently here with Flush Limbore when the leader of Johnson’s political party drew a line connecting marriage equality with pedophilia.

    I realize this is “water wet, sky blue” stuff, but this is particularly repugnant for Johnson, who is a thoroughly loathsome character in his own right, partly because he once spoke out in support of the Green Bay, WI diocese while it sought to shield itself from litigation over pedophile priests (here).

  • Nixon_YMQUD00Z

  • Continuing, it should be noted that yesterday was the 100th birthday of a certain Richard Milhous Nixon (I also had some related video here), and with that in mind, Fix Noise “Democrat” Doug Schoen referred to Nixon as a “liberal” here (if he were still alive, Number 37 would no doubt have brought the full weight on the Feds down on that toad Schoen in response for such an alleged calumny, which is a comment on Nixon’s paranoia and authoritarian streak more than anything else).

    And central to Schoen’s largely specious argument is the following…

    Though Nixon, and other Republicans in the 1970s, would never have expressed it in this way, our 37th president was a pro-big government, pro-public spending, and pro-social safety net president.

    Nixon was not only a fervent supporter of the Clean Air Act, the first federal law designed to control air pollution on the national level; he also gave us the Environmental Protection Agency. The creation of the EPA represented an expansion of government that would face fierce opposition were it being debated today. The EPA is also one of the agencies on Capitol Hill that the business community most detests—along with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which polices working conditions. OSHA is another Nixon creation.

    Well, I’m not sure exactly how “fervent” Nixon was about clean air, but as far as the Clean Water Act is concerned, Nixon was so “fervent” that he vetoed it, and when Congress overrode his veto, Nixon impounded the money (more on Nixon and the environment is here, and here too, to be fair).

    Basically, from a distance, Nixon looks like a giant on the environment partly because our problems with air and water pollution in particular were so horrific that all he had to do was not stand in the way of progress originated by others to look like he was accomplishing something.

    If you want to give Nixon props for being somewhat “green,” I suppose that’s OK, though (more of a comment on future ruinous Repug presidents by comparison, though: mainly The Sainted Ronnie R and his “son”). However, let’s not forget one of Nixon’s most enduring legacies that haunt us to this day, and that is his nurturing and perpetuating of white rage in pursuit of what now looks to be fleeting electoral glory for his party.

  • And as an example of what Tricky Dick has wrought, I give you this bit of pointless fluff from the Roger Ailes BS Factory (here), criticizing Dem U.S. House Rep Sheila Jackson-Lee for saying that entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security are “earned” (with the word in quotes to imply that Jackson-Lee is wrong, which she isn’t – more info here…kind of ridiculous that it still has to be pointed out after all this time).

    And since we’re talking about the TV and online equivalent of rabies after all, I’d like to call attention to the following comment…

    SJL_Gorilla_010713

    And this was one of about 4-5 gorilla-related comments (and the one I highlighted actually got about 5 “likes”).

    Stay classy, Foxies!


  • Friday Mashup (12/7/12)

    December 8, 2012
  • In a column that otherwise has some sensible moments in it, Michael Sivy of Time concocts the following from here

    While it is true that a large deficit in any particular year is not a problem, longer term trends do matter. If national debt is relatively low – less than 50% of annual GDP, say – there’s plenty of room to spend in the short run and then balance the budget later. This is basically what happened over the course of the combined Reagan and Clinton administrations. The result was an economic boom that lasted more than 20 years.

    The article likes to a chart of GDP stretching back to The Sainted Ronnie R, claiming that prosperity was built on low debt from then until now, which is hilarious when you consider this (so much so that Reagan raised the debt ceiling 17 times, as noted here, with #43, Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History, doing so 7 times…by the way, Number 40 commendably raised the taxes on capital gains relative to wages, as noted here).

    Between the administrations of Reagan and Number 42, Poppy Bush presided over an economic downturn that, albeit relatively brief, was just long enough to pave the way for Bill Clinton’s election (interesting that Sivy managed to forget that – of course, if he had, what passes for his argument would have fallen apart).

    Not to be outdone, Teahadist Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin also tried to claim that Reagan was responsible for Clinton’s success here before he was slapped down by Bob Shrum (and how funny is it for Johnson to claim that all he needed was lower tax rates to start his business when you consider this?).

  • gwb_13-george-w-bush

  • Continuing, I know I just mentioned the ever-odious predecessor to President Obama above, but it bears repeating that yesterday (12/6) was the sixth anniversary of the findings of the Iraq Study Group, which announced in 2006 what just about any sentient being already knew by that point. And that is that Dubya’s Not-So-Excellent Adventure in Mesopotamia was an abysmal failure.

    And how did the overmatched man-child in An Oval Office respond? With this. And ultimately, as all of his horrendously awful decisions did, leading to this.

  • Next, we have U.S. Senate Repug Jeff Sessions from Alabama making a lot of noise here at Obama Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for supposedly encouraging food stamp use by Mexican immigrants, or something.

    I wonder if Sessions knows that the number of his constituents who have signed up for food stamps has increased by 20 percent, as noted here? Or that food stamps are actually an economic stimulus, as noted here?

    Of course, why deal with reality when there are political talking points to propagate instead, right?

  • Turning to the pages of the Murdoch Street Journal, Turd Blossom himself (no escaping from Dubya’s awful legacy is there?) propagandizes as follows here

    …there are considerable downsides for Mr. Obama if the nation goes over the fiscal cliff. His approval rating (51% in the most recent Gallup Poll weekly average) will probably drop, as it did during the July 2011 debt-ceiling battle. While Congress’s standing dipped a little then, the president’s Gallup rating sank to 38% in August 2011 (from 47% at the start of the year). It didn’t get back to 50% until April 2012.

    As noted here, even though Obama’s approval numbers were admittedly not great during that farce, he and the Senate Dems polled better than Orange Man and his Repug pals in the U.S. House.

    Continuing…

    By contrast, when Mr. Obama and Republicans amicably agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts for two more years following the 2010 midterm elections, his job-approval rating rose to 49% from 43% over the course of 10 days. Deadlock, controversy and stalemate cause Mr. Obama’s numbers to drop. Bipartisan agreement causes them to rise.

    Rove is actually partly right on this; shocking, I know – of course, the part he doesn’t mention is that the GOP congressional numbers slipped by comparison also, as noted here (and of course, the vote was so “amicable” that Boehner called it “chicken (crap),” as noted here).

    At least Fix Noise actually had the good sense to tell Rove to take a seat for a while (here), though he’ll no doubt be back. Wonder if the Journal is keen to do the same thing?

  • Finally (and sticking with President Obama), I give you the latest bit of right-wing umbrage here

    “2016: Obama’s America,” a conservative documentary, raked in more money than all the 15 films being considered for the Best Documentary Academy Award combined. But the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Monday announced “2016″ won’t even get a shot to win a nomination for the award.

    Gerald Molen, the Oscar-winning producer of “Schindler’s List” and “2016,” blames Hollywood’s “bias against anything from a conservative point of view” for the Academy Award snub, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

    The film, directed by conservative author Dinesh D’Souza, earned $33.4 million nationwide, making it the highest-grossing documentary of the year.

    “Dinesh warned me this might happen,” Molen told THR. “The action confirms my opinion that the bias against anything from a conservative point of view is dead on arrival in Hollywood circles. The film’s outstanding success means that America went to see the documentary in spite of how Hollywood feels about it.”

    For his part, D’Souza jokingly thanked the Academy for “not nominating our film.”

    You want to know why this piece of propaganda didn’t receive an Oscar nomination? Read the following from here

    Why is the film called “2016”? D’Souza’s one-sided argument ultimately stoops to fear-mongering of the worst kind, stating in no uncertain terms that, if the president is reelected, the world four years from now will be darkened by the clouds of economic collapse, World War III (thanks to the wholesale renunciation of our nuclear superiority) and a terrifyingly ascendant new “United States of Islam” in the Middle East. These assertions are accompanied by footage of actual dark clouds and horror-movie music.

    The real bogeyman isn’t Obama, who D’Souza acknowledges can come across as an appealing and charismatic leader. That honor is shared by several men D’Souza refers to as Obama’s “founding fathers,” in an unsubtle dig at the president’s patriotism. It’s a group that includes communist Frank Marshall Davis; former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers; academic Edward Said, whose views are described as anti-Zionist; liberal Harvard professor Roberto Unger; and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a proponent of so-called black liberation theology.

    None of the names of these putative villains is new, which gives “2016” the air of a “Nightmare on Elm Street” sequel, pandering to the franchise’s hard-core fans, while boring everyone else.

    More on D’Souza and his history of hateful fictions can be found here.

    Here is another reason why I’m not particularly sympathetic to any conservative argument about supposedly being slighted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (which sounds all high-falutin’ I know, though it is hardly that, despite the way they get dressed up at the Oscars) – anybody out there besides me remember a 1994 documentary called “Hoop Dreams”?

    As Wikipedia tells us…

    The film follows William Gates and Arthur Agee, two African-American teenagers who are recruited by a scout from St. Joseph High School in Westchester, Illinois, a predominantly white high school with an outstanding basketball program, whose alumni include NBA great Isiah Thomas. Taking 90-minute commutes to school, enduring long and difficult workouts and practices, and acclimatising to a foreign social environment, Gates and Agee struggle to improve their athletic skills in a job market with heavy competition. Along the way, their families celebrate their successes and support each other during times of economic hardship caused from the school change.

    The film raises a number of issues concerning race, class, economic division, education and values in contemporary America. It also offers one of the most intimate views of inner-city life to be captured on film. Yet it is also the human story of two young men, their two families and their community, and the joys and struggles they live from their recruitment in 1987 through their college freshman year (1991-92).

    Wikipedia also tells us that the film ended up earning about $11 million, which I know is a third of what this anti-Obama nonsense pulled in (I would argue that it will continue to earn money in video rentals, though obviously not as much as it earned years ago).

    Here is the kicker, though – as Roger Ebert and others have pointed out, “Hoop Dreams” was easily the best documentary the year it was made, and it wasn’t nominated for anything either (and good luck trying to find a conservative agenda in the compelling stories of William Gates and Arthur Agee).

    Of course, Molen and D’Souza could try to make a film following up on Gates and Agee if they felt compelled to right the wrong of that film’s denial of a nomination years ago, as opposed to their own.

    And I would expect that to take place at about the time hell freezes over (and speaking of Ebert, best wishes to him, on the mend as noted here).


  • K.O. Bags The Teabaggers

    October 28, 2010

    Terrific, important stuff that would have been pointed out long ago by our corporate media if they had been doing their jobs – here is Part One…

    …and here is Part Two.


    Ron Johnson, The “Running Man”

    October 17, 2010

    I give Think Progress tons of credit for breaking the story on the foreign money quite probably being used to run negative campaign ads (and once again, I say “quite probably” because the National Chamber of Commerce won’t come clean on the matter), but while it is literally true that Ron Johnson, running as a Repug for the U.S. Senate from Wisconsin, has called for disclosure (here), that to me is not unlike Ron Jeremy making a public service announcement on behalf of abstinence-only education, partly for reasons noted below (and Johnson, quite literally, is “running” as you can see – and don’t forget this either).


    Not Your Father’s Republican Party

    September 17, 2010

    Or that of any human life form, I’m starting to think…by the way, all of the people featured here are running for the U.S. Senate except Carl Paladino, interviewed at the end by CNN’s Rick Sanchez…Paladino will run against Andrew Cuomo in the New York gubernatorial contest (heh).


  • Top Posts & Pages

  • Advertisements