Friday Mashup (7/31/09)

July 31, 2009

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  • First of all, best wishes to Sen. Chris Dodd for a full recovery from upcoming prostate cancer surgery (here).
  • HS_03-homer_simpson_drunk

  • Also in a medical vein, the Bucks County Courier Times tells us the following from its “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down” segment today…

    (Thumbs Up) to Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who’s lobbying City Council for a law that would require bars to report fights to 911. The proposal follows the beating death of a Lansdale man who was pummeled and kicked outside a sports bar at Citizens Bank Park.

    Oh sure – this is great. Pass a law obligating the police to call 911 and divert precious, comparatively scarce resources that could be used to save lives to break up tend to the victims of bar fights started by a bunch of drunks.

    You want a more constructive idea? Well then, as noted here by Philadelphia City Controller Alan Butkovitz…

    “Tele-nursing allows better prioritization of emergency responses,” said (Butkovitz). “Our fire commissioner says that 80 percent of the city’s 220,000 emergency calls each year should not be getting rescue squad response. With tele-nurses handling non-emergency 911 calls, those who have ‘drop-everything’ emergencies will have more rapid responses.”

    “It is possible that the use of tele-nurses could save the city as much as $2.5 million per year and save lives,” Butkovitz reported.

    Memo to the Courier-Times editorial board: stick to opining on matters “closer to home” in your typically provincial manner, since that seems to resonate better with your predominantly-right-wing audience.

  • George_Voinovich_0001

  • Also, I’m still waiting for the howls of outrage from our corporate media punditocracy over the recent comment from departing Repug Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio that the downfall of the Republican Party has occurred because, as noted here…

    “We got too many Jim DeMints and Tom Coburns,” Voinovich told the Columbus Dispatch. “It’s the southerners.”

    That is easily one of the most astute remarks I’ve heard from a politician of either major party affiliation in a loooong time.

    And yes, while it’s true that there are some random blog posts I found out there on the subject, I have yet to hear Messrs. Krauthammer, Kristol, Will, Cohen and their brethren weigh in (a few Google searches produced nothing).

    This is typical, though; as Media Matters notes here, it is much easier for the news organizations with initials for names to focus on real or alleged Democratic missteps than it is for the Repugs.

    Also, as long as we’re talking about the South, this post from kos tells us that they are primarily the individuals comprising the Obama “birthers” out there (the life forms who still agitate themselves over the fantasy that our president was not born in this country).

    I would give Voinovich credit for interjecting some much-needed reality into the political discussion, but since he’s leaving, what he says really isn’t going to matter. Now saying it and then defending his words in Congress in the midst of a re-election campaign – that would be truly admirable.

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  • I must point out the following amusing item from The National Review Online pertaining to Repug Tennessee Senator Bob Corker (here)…

    Corker says President Obama recently met with him, something he appreciates. But Corker doesn’t think Obama “has his feet on the ground with regard to what appropriate health reform is.” He adds, “And he personalizes everything, it’s all, ‘I, I, I.'” Corker suspects that for Obama “doing this with some massive bill is about politics…To him, it’s about a political victory, not about doing what’s in the long-term interest of citizens.”

    Here is Corker’s statement on the matter of whether or not he will vote to confirm Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court…

    “Judge Sotomayor has an impressive background and an inspiring American story. I enjoyed meeting with her in June and let her know I would reserve judgment on her nomination until the conclusion of a fair and thorough hearings process,” said Corker. “After much deliberation and careful review, I have determined that Judge Sotomayor’s record and many of her past statements reflect a view of the Supreme Court that is different from my own. I view the Supreme Court as a body charged with impartially deciding what the law means as it is applied to a specific case. I believe Judge Sotomayor views the Supreme Court as more of a policy-making body where laws are shaped based on the personal views of the justices. Unfortunately, nothing I heard during Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings or in my meeting with her in June sufficiently allayed this concern. For this reason, I’m disappointed to say, I will not be able to support Judge Sotomayor’s nomination.”

    And we’re supposed to deal seriously with these people on matters of legislation critical to our economy, our health care, and our planet in general…

  • Malcolm

  • And finally, I must communicate this even-more-absurd item from former Laura Bush employee Andrew Malcolm at the LA Times…

    According to a new Washington Post survey, a clear majority of Americans (55%) approve of the job (Vice President Joe) Biden’s doing, perhaps because thanks to schedules like today’s, they can’t know much about what that job he’s doing actually is.

    Biden’s numbers are tied closely to Americans’ belief in the economic efficacy of President Obama’s stimulus package. Those who think it’ll work, like him; those who don’t, don’t.

    Those Biden approval numbers still aren’t quite as good as Dick Cheney’s April approval of 64% from a 2001 Post poll.

    Oh mah gawd…

    To communicate a more up-to-date approval rating on “Deadeye Dick” that actually isn’t AT LEAST EIGHT YEARS OLD, this tells us that the former veep is only slightly less popular than Cuba and Venezuela (though, as Matt Yglesias points out, “China and Russia are kicking his ass”).

    Well, as least “Big Time” can look on the bright side; he’s bound to be more popular than Iran and North Korea.


  • On Sotomayor, It’s “Lock And Load” Time For The NRA

    July 30, 2009

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    In an example of still more gun-related cowardice by the Democratic Party, Think Progress tells the following from here…

    Noting Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s record on the Second Amendment, Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) told Roll Call that that he is “undecided” on her nomination to the Supreme Court (although he added that he is “leaning toward voting in favor”). Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) expressed similar uncertainty:

    Both senators’ equivocal statements come in the wake of the NRA’s decision to “score” the Sotomayor vote in determining where each lawmaker stands on the NRA’s pro-gun agenda. The NRA claims, falsely, that because Sotomayor once upheld a New York law against a Second Amendment challenge this somehow proves that she is hostile to gun rights. That decision, however, did nothing more than apply well-established law.

    Because lower-court judges are required by law to follow the commands of the Supreme Court, Sotomayor once joined an opinion which followed a Supreme Court case holding that the Second Amendment doesn’t apply to the states. Nevertheless, the NRA launched a smear campaign against Sotomayor this month, claiming that she “deliberately misread Supreme Court precedent to support her incorrect view” in this case.

    (It’s pretty sad when a Repug shows more courage than a Dem on the gun issue, by the way, as Lamar Alexander does in the Think Progress post.)

    Also, as noted here, conservative judges Frank Easterbrook and Richard Posner, both appointed by The Sainted Ronnie R, also held that the Second Amendment did not apply to the states in accordance with a prior ruling from Judge Sotomayor.

    All of this comes in the wake of the vote on an amendment sponsored by Senate Repug John Thune of South Dakota here which basically would have allowed an individual who owned a firearm in a state with looser gun laws to transport it to a state and use it – and thus supersede what could be tougher laws in the state where the gun is transported – as he or she saw fit (or, as Think Progress explained, “31 states currently prohibit ‘habitual drunkards’ from carrying guns. The Thune amendment would render these provisions useless.”).

    As the prior posted linked to above also tells us, the Thune Amendment was barely defeated in the Senate by a vote of 58-39; as noted here, Colorado Democratic Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet voted Yes, as well as PA’s own Bob Casey.

    To me, this prompts the following question: with “Democrats” like these, who needs Republicans?

    I realize that such laws pertain primarily to smaller caliber weapons, but I cannot help but wonder whether or not such an amendment by Thune or anyone else (assuming the dark day ever comes when it passes and is signed into law, thus ensuring my political opposition to any person responsible for such an atrocity, be they a Dem or a Repug) could somehow make it easier for someone to sneak a decidedly more lethal weapon (such as an assault rifle) into a public place.

    And with that in mind, I should note that last July 18th marked the 25th anniversary of the San Ysidro, CA McDonald’s massacre, in which James Oliver Huberty murdered 22 people (including himself) and injured 19 with a 9 mm Uzi semi-automatic (the primary weapon fired in the massacre), a Winchester pump-action 12-gauge shotgun, and a 9 mm Browning HP (as noted here by Wikipedia).

    I tried really hard to find some principled Democratic opposition to the NRA and the pro-gun forces in this country, but unfortunately, aside from Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York, I couldn’t. However, I was able to find the following from columnist Mark Shields here from last April, in which a legendary Repug with whom I frequently disagreed spoke what I would call “truth to power” on assault weapons…

    Washington and the leadership of both political parties in the city need a collective vertebrae transplant. Just listen to what one of the country’s great conservative leaders, the late Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., said about these assault weapons in 1990: “I am completely opposed to selling automatic weapons. I don’t see any reason why they ever made semi-automatics. I’ve been a member of the NRA. I collect, make and shoot guns. I’ve never used an automatic or a semi-automatic for hunting. There’s no need to. They have no place in anybody’s arsenal.”

    So much for the sportsman’s argument for assault rifles of the kind that the Binghamton (NY) killer used to fire, according to police, 98 shots in one minute.

    Shortly before Goldwater made his position so abundantly clear, the then-California Attorney General John Van de Kamp, a Democrat, stood on the floor of the Assembly in Sacramento holding in his hands an AK-47 semi-automatic weapon and said to the legislative body’s 80 members: “Ladies and gentlemen, take a look at your watches and start counting. You are lucky that I am the attorney general and not some nut. Because if I had the ammunition, I could shoot every member of the Assembly by the time I finish this sentence — about 20 seconds.”

    But 1994 will forever be remembered as the year when Democrats lost their heart for standing up to the gun lobby. The Democratic-controlled Congress and President Bill Clinton had enacted a ban on 19 types of automatic weapons. That ban had passed the House on a 216-214 vote, guided by the then-Clinton White House adviser (and now Obama White House chief of staff) Rahm Emanuel — and it was blamed by many Democrats for their party’s November loss, for the first time in 40 years, of House control.

    (By the way, I read the comments to Shields’ column, one of which chided him for not knowing the difference – as far as the commenter was concerned – between a fully-automatic machine gun and a semi-automatic rifle…as if that would have made any of the victims described by Shields “less dead” as a result.)

    And on the matter of the Dems’ ’94 loss of Congress owing to the assault weapons ban, I thought New York Times editorialist Dorothy Samuels made the following good points last May here…

    It is hard to make a case that the assault weapons ban was decisive in 1994.

    The law certainly enraged many N.R.A. members and might explain the loss of certain Democratic seats. However, there were other major factors in the Democrats’ 1994 loss, starting with perceived Democratic arrogance and corruption (overdrafts at the House bank came to symbolize that).

    Add to that voter unhappiness with Mr. Clinton’s budget, his health care fiasco, the Republican Party’s success in recruiting appealing candidates, and that ingenious Republican vehicle for nationalizing the elections known as the “Contract With America.” The contract, by the way, did not mention guns.

    Mr. Clinton’s successful 1996 re-election campaign actually stressed his gun control achievements. James and Sarah Brady spoke in prime time at the ’96 Democratic convention, and Clinton campaign ads trumpeted his role in enacting the assault weapons ban and the ’93 Brady law requiring background checks for gun buyers.

    And returning to the Shields column once more, I would advise Casey, Udall, Bennet and the other “chicken Dems” on this issue to read the following…

    President Obama has long been on record for a permanent ban on assault weapons. But one respected Capitol Hill Democrat, a longtime champion of gun control, despairs: “These (recent) killings have, unfortunately, not moved the needle.”

    What would be required to get this Congress to act? “It would take at least a major massacre of kindergarteners.”

    I can think of no more damning indictment of our politicians – and really, our country’s collective retreat on this issue – than that.


    Making The World Safe For White People Once More

    July 18, 2009

    I’m sure Pat Buchanan has earned himself a lifetime membership at the Valley Swim Club based on this performance – ugh.


    A Krauthammer Ricci Rehash

    July 6, 2009

    firehosesUsually I ignore Charles Krauthammer, I really do, because of what I consider to be his meandering prose and dense arguments, but that’s a little difficult since he’s carried in both the Bucks County Courier Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer in these parts. And both papers carried his most recent musings on the ruling by the Supremes in the Ricci case, which I posted about here.

    And often, I just try to ignore him and conservatives generally and their triumphalist rhetoric unless it intersects with an issue that directly impacts me and many others, such as health care or energy policy (or unless their lies are so obvious that they shouldn’t go unchallenged). But on this occasion, I feel that I have to say something.
    Krauthammer starts with this…

    While overturned on Ricci, (Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor) is protected by the four dissenting justices who upheld the side of the case she had taken as an appeals court judge.

    As already noted, Sotomayor was compelled to rule as she did in the case because of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, with Hangin’ Judge JR and his pals concocting this new “strong basis in evidence” standard to mitigate Title VII and thus rule in favor of the white firefighters and one Hispanic whose test results were thrown out in Ricci, something strangely ignored by Krauthammer.

    The columnist also resurrects the notion that white firefighters were victimized by reverse discrimination in the testing process, when it should be noted that, as pointed out last Tuesday in the Inquirer, “the reverse-bias lawsuit, in its five-year journey to the Supreme Court, delayed replacing New Haven’s flawed multiple-choice test with an exam that can better determine who should be a fire captain or lieutenant.”

    I suppose, though, what really got me about his column was the closing…

    We’re 45 years beyond passage of the Civil Rights Act. We have a black attorney general and a black president. As with every passing year we move generationally away from the era of Jim Crow, it becomes less and less justified for the government to mandate “remedial” racial discrimination. Which is why Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in one of her last opinions wrote that “the Court expects that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary.”

    The import of Ricci, which raised the bar on reverse discrimination, is that it heads us once again toward that day — and back to true colorblindness that was the original vision, and everlasting glory, of the civil rights movement.

    And I thought this was an appropriate response…

    In the same way that the Right found a crusading hero in Allan Bakke, the plaintive (sic) in the landmark anti-affirmative action case Allan Bakke versus the Regents of the University of California, Krauthammer, Limbaugh, O’Reilly, and Buchanan have found a just crusader in Frank Ricci. With him, they can now craft a mythology around a set of justice claims that will fuel the second Civil Rights Movement–a White Male Freedom Struggle that will ring through all times as it fights to dramatically restructure American society.

    Frank Ricci is their Rosa Parks. Instead of a kindly, exhausted, old lady who simply wanted to ride the bus and sit where she so chose, the Right has a dyslexic firefighter who studied for twelve hours a day, employed tutors to read him the textbook, and despite all of these obstacles, still scored at the top of the exam class. His reward? (sic) to be denied his rightful and earned promotion by a group of litigious, petty, underachieving, mediocre black firefighters and their white liberal enablers who claimed that the test was “unfair.” This is identity politics at its worst, a politics that is squarely outside of the American tradition.

    When Krauthammer stages his freedom rides, and the movement to which he belongs has its great march on Washington, I will empathize with them. For me, the veil is lifted as I now clearly see the moral righteousness and virtue of their freedom struggle. Justice will come for these aggrieved White men, and I hope it comes very soon.

    I also don’t recall seeing any pictures of white New Haven firefighters being attacked with Billy clubs or tear gas at the Edmund Pettus bridge, nor do I recall their homes being raided by Sheriff “Bull” Connor and their arrests for “vagrancy,” nor do I recall seeing them attacked by dogs or water cannons (pictured).

    When the civil rights stakes for a group of individuals in this country are a lot higher than merely a “conundrum,” then I’ll favor a legal action to rectify their circumstance. But not until then (Krauthammer is right about the 45th anniversary of the Act, though, which we just observed last week).

    Update 7/12/09: Indeed.


    More On The Supremes’ “Veni, Vidi, Ricci” Ruling

    June 30, 2009

    ladyjustice1As Think Progress tells us here (and I know we know the result already), Hangin’ Judge JR and The Supremes ruled yesterday in favor of firefighter Frank Ricci in his case against the city of New Haven (Mayor John DiStefano was also named in the action) for throwing out the results of a management test where African American candidates did not score well, whereas 17 whites and one Hispanic candidate did.

    We also learn the following…

    (Yesterday’s) ruling creates a new standard which says that an employer’s decision to toss out a hiring test must have a “strong basis in evidence” showing that the test preferred one race over another.

    (And by the way, kudos to Chuck Todd for this – h/t Atrios).

    Think Progress also notes that Supreme Court Nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor is thusly now under attack for having the decision of the Second Circuit Court of New York (of which she was a member) overturned. However, the Supremes, particularly under J.R., have the luxury of enabling new law (which they did by applying the new standard noted above), although all other courts, including the Second Circuit, were legally obliged to honor the existing standard under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (as Sotomayor did).

    It should be noted that both black and Hispanic firefighters recognized how racially divisive this case ultimately became; this New Haven Register story from earlier this month tells us…

    NEW HAVEN — A group of black and Hispanic firefighters and community leaders, who say they face common challenges but sometimes follow divergent paths, stood together in a show of unity Wednesday at a symbolic location in a melting-pot neighborhood.

    The announcement was what they called a newfound common ground between the two racial groups and an era of better collaboration, forged during a recent series of meetings mediated by the NAACP aimed at “healing,” said James Rawlings, president of New Haven’s NAACP branch.

    “We face a lot of things together as minorities, and for us, being divided and separate is not a good thing,” said firefighter Terry Rountree, vice president of the New Haven Firebird Society, a fraternal organization of black firefighters. “And from this day forth, hopefully, we can work together and just serve the city better in certain issues that we both deal with as minorities on the Fire Department.”

    That’s a positive development, particularly since Benjamin Vargas, the one Hispanic firefighter who took the test, had his results nullified also.

    Also, Linda Greenhouse, former Supreme Court reporter for the New York Times, tells us the following from here (in the matter of prior rulings that have “chipped away” at Title VII)…

    To understand the nature of the shift (represented by the Ricci ruling) requires a bit of history. Congress enacted Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the statute at issue in the Ricci case, with a simple command to employers: thou shalt not discriminate on the basis of race or other protected characteristics, including sex and religion. But the simple proved to be complicated. An employer of blue-collar workers in North Carolina, Duke Power, required a high school diploma of all job applicants, a requirement that screened out 88 percent of black men in that region at that time.

    In a 1971 decision, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a test that was “fair in form, but discriminatory in operation” could violate Title VII even without proof that the discrimination was intentional. Congress eventually amended Title VII to codify that decision, Griggs v. Duke Power. The rule was clear: if a job requirement produced a “disparate impact,” the employer had the burden of showing that the requirement was actually necessary.

    Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t take note of this shockingly sensible editorial today by the Philadelphia Inquirer (commendable stuff, actually), which takes the Supremes to task for the ruling and notes the following…

    …white firefighter Frank Ricci and 19 others cited (the ’64 Act) to allege reverse discrimination – and the court bought it. It did not matter to the court that Ricci and the other plaintiffs were not being denied promotions; they simply had to wait for New Haven to install a new examination that wasn’t biased.

    In fact, the reverse-bias lawsuit, in its five-year journey to the Supreme Court, delayed replacing New Haven’s flawed multiple-choice test with an exam that can better determine who should be a fire captain or lieutenant. Better tests, which include simulated tactical firefighting drills, are used successfully in other cities.

    The ruling casts a pall on all affirmative action, and confirms that judicial activist Chief Justice John Roberts is on a mission to end what he calls the “sordid business” of “divvying us up by race.”

    This makes the ruling by the Supremes all the more “muddy” since it let Title VII stand (fortunately), though it also managed to “make it harder for employers to comply with anti-discrimination laws” as noted here.

    Also, I thought Ron Walters of the Daytona Times made the following good points here…

    A section of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits the use of tests that would be used intentionally to discriminate, or tests that would be used without the intention to discriminate but would nevertheless have an exclusionary (disparate) impact. The continuing importance of this is that in 2007, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that discrimination charges involving test screening of job applicants have significantly increased due in part to security concerns raised by 9/11 and the economy.

    The Age Discrimination Act and Americans with Disabilities Act protects others from biased testing, in addition to African- Americans. So any change in the law that seeks to invalidate Title VII for Blacks would also affect others.

    However, it remains to be seen whether the High Court of Hangin’ Judge JR is on the same “mission” to “divvy up” the legal rights of the elderly and those dealing with disabilities as it is against African Americans.


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