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 (6/13/14)

    June 13, 2014
  • This story tells us the following (about the recent idiocy in North Carolina Virginia where Phillip Puckett, a thoroughly compromised Dem in the state senate, agreed to resign for a plumb patronage job that he since has chosen not to accept, and let the Repugs take over that body, denying Medicaid expansion in that state)…

    Puckett’s resignation leads the way for him to get a job as deputy director of the state tobacco commission and for his daughter to be confirmed for a state judgeship. Depending on how you look at it, it’s politics at its worst — or best.

    “Republicans I’ve talked to are chortling,” Larry Sabato, founder and director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told Business Insider. “They think it’s one of the cleverest things they’ve done.”

    “And yet,” he added, “one of them asked me, ‘Do you think Democrats would not have done the same thing if they had the opportunity?’ And of course they would have. It’s yet another reason people hate politicians.”

    Perhaps, but is there a recent example of such an occurrence? You know, engaging in political nonsense that could prevent nearly 400,00 people in the state of North Carolina from receiving health care (here)? And let’s see how many Repugs are “chortling” in light of this.

    And Sabato follows up with the following…

    “This is really about Obamacare,” Sabato said of the dispute. “Forget about Medicaid.”

    I realize that it’s Sabato’s job to comment on the “horse race” political stuff and not necessarily the wonky material about, you know, actual policy and legislation that makes a difference in people’s lives, but if he doesn’t know what he’s talking about on this issue (and he obviously doesn’t), then he should shut up.

    You see, the people affected by the treachery orchestrated by Puckett and the North Carolina Repugs are (again) primarily the poor in his state who are due to receive the benefits of “Obamacare” through Medicaid expansion. Arguing that the two are separate in this case is disingenuous at best and outright lying at worst.

    This is par for the ridiculous course when it comes to Sabato, though; as noted here, he once said that the Swift Boat liars who impugned John Kerry ten years ago (remember that one?) were telling the truth; he also said that it would be “a national disgrace” to continue “the Clinton/Bush dynasty” (another idiotic construct as far as I’m concerned; things were a hell of a lot better for me and everyone I know under Bill than under either of the Bushes); and he also said (in the post I linked to previously) that the Democrats are the “mommy” party while the Repugs are the “daddy” party.

  • Next, I give you some truly ripe stuff from Larry Kudlow (here)…

    The Democrats want a minimum-wage hike. That may sound great on the surface, but it’s actually a big job loser for the lowest-skilled and poorest among us. President Obama and his EPA have launched a war on coal, which will cost hundreds of thousands of jobs if implemented. And then there’s Obamacare, which the CBO estimates will cost at least 2.5 million jobs.

    I don’t know how Kudlow can make that claim about the minimum wage with any degree of seriousness whatsoever (much more on that is available from here).

    And as far as coal goes, I also don’t know how Kudlow can seriously make the claim that Obama has “launched a war on coal,” considering that his administration encourages coal burning by aggressively issuing permits to mine coal on federal land, especially the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, as noted here.

    But wait, there’s more…

    With coal demand at home expected to fall by 20 per cent due to new regulations, and competitive pressure from low-priced natural gas, coal companies are now pushing to increase exports to Asia. … Three new coal-export ports are being proposed for the Pacific coast: two in Washington state and one in Oregon. They could eventually ship up to 100 million tons of coal per year—an amountequivalent to the total volume of coal the U.S. will export this year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA). …

    Environmentalists warn that emissions from that volume of coal would dwarf the savings from Obama’s new power plant rule.

    Since 2009, the Obama administration has sold leases for more than two billion tons of coal in the Powder River Basin for rates as low as $1 per ton, drawing the wrath of critics, including some in Congress, who say too much coal is being leased too cheaply. (Coal from the Powder River Basin is worth about $13 per ton.)

    As it reviews its long-term plans for the leases, which could eventually put another 10 billion tons of coal up for auction, the administration has so far resisted calls to include carbon emissions abroad in its decision-making.

    In addition, it looks like Kudlow is trying to propagandize once more about how the Affordable Care Law is a supposed job killer, when in reality (here)…

    The reduction in work hours that equates to 2.5 million jobs “stems almost entirely” from Americans deciding to work less or not at all in order to retain their eligibility for the Affordable Care Act’s expanded Medicaid coverage or government health insurance subsidies, the CBO analysis concludes.

    More on that is here; basically, we’re talking about a reduction in work hours that equates to 2.5 million jobs. Or, to give you an example close to home, maybe Mrs. Doomsy could continue to work on-call for about 20 hours or so a week if she qualified for “Obamacare” instead of having to work a minimum of 32 hours a week for her employer to get health insurance by that way instead (that’s partly a hypothetical and partly reality too, for the record).

    (Oh, and by the way, as you go to the polls later this year, please remember which political party was responsible for a near-catastrophic government shut down last year, and also remember who was one of the shut down’s biggest cheerleaders.)

  • Further, James Jay Carafano waxes hysterical as follows (here)…

    Iraq is a shambles. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Al Qaeda off-shoot that now controls nearly a third of the nation, continues to run amok.

    It’s way past time for the White House to get its head in the game. The disaster unfolding in Iraq and Syria could very quickly spiral into a much, much bigger problem. And some problems are so big that even our president can’t spin his way out.

    At the top of the list of what the administration should be worrying about—and preparing to deal with—is the potential for an endless three-way civil war in Iraq. With Sunni, Shia and Kurds fighting one another, it would look something like the civil war in Syria—on steroids.

    Of course, back during the supposedly glorious days of Iraq War II, no one could have predicted that the quagmire in Mesopotamia would turn out to be favorable to Iran. Right?

    In response, I give you James Jay Carafano in 2010 (here)…

    Here is what we know for sure. 1) Given the state of Iraq in 2006, the country is in a much better place today that any reasonable observer then dared hope. 2) Iraq is better off than it was in the age of Saddam. Now the country has a future, and it rests in the hands of its people. Bonus: The world is rid one of its most dangerous and bloodthirsty thugs. Yes, it was a heavy price. Freedom rarely comes cheap. 3) The surge worked. The surge never promised a land of “milk and honey.” It just promised to break the cycle of continuous, unrelenting violence, to give the new Iraqi political process a chance, and to allow the Iraqis time to build the capacity for their own security. It did that. 4) Things didn’t turn out the way Bush planned. But the vision — a free Iraq without Saddam — was achieved. Remember, things didn’t turn out the way FDR planned either. He said all the troops would be out of Europe in two years.

    By the way, Carafano wrote the above column on August 19th, the day that Obama announced that all combat operations would end by August 31st, with the full withdrawal scheduled for December 2011 (here). And after that, the attacks started to ramp up again.

    Here is my point – if Carafano said that “this is the way history works” in 2010, acting like he was OK with what Obama was doing, then wasn’t Carafano just as wrong then as he thinks Obama is now (and personally, I think Obama was correct, as opposed to Carafano)?

  • Continuing, I came across this real whopper from Dr. Ben Carson (here – page 2)…

    Over the past year, I have learned a great deal about the press in America. It is not uniformly unfair with nefarious agendas, but a significant portion is. One of the best ways to determine which news organizations are objective and which have an agenda is to keep a scorecard that lists both electronic and print media. When evaluating a story, check off whether it is concentrating on factual reporting or demonization. If there is controversy, determine whether both points of view are considered. If major stories of a political nature are ignored or barely mentioned, that should raise suspicions about objectivity.

    You know what? I think Carson is actually onto something here. So, following up on his idea of a “score card,” I came up with the following…

    Story Demonization Factual Reporting
    Here Carson compares gay men and women to bestiality supporters. Bestiality is abhorrent to the gay community and just about every other life form that I know of (duuuh!).
    Here The VA scandal is “A gift from God” according to Carson. The VA scandal is a national bipartisan tragedy, owing primarily to the huge burden of treating our military personnel fighting two wars begun under the prior administration (not a criticism of our military in any way, of course – not their problem that Bushco was a gang of thugs who were asleep on 9/11).
    Here Carson compared the Affordable Care Law to “slavery.” Over 8 million (and counting) citizens of this country now have access to health care, many of whom had no access before.
    Here Carson once said that Russian President Vladimir Putin was right to call America “godless.” Why should we take seriously supposed lessons in morality from a thug who annexed Crimea away from Ukraine (you can go in many other directions here, I’ll admit).
    Here Carson invokes Lenin (no, not the Beatle) in attacking the Affordable Care Law. Sigh – is this really necessary anymore?

    Of course, if you want to do any research about Carson on your own, dear reader (trying to determine “factual reporting” vs. “demonization” without a visual aid, even the one as primitive as I provided), you can always just click here.

  • Update 6/14/14: Turning to Philadelphia-area stuff, it looks like a SEPTA transit strike is underway. I’m not totally familiar with all of the issues, though it apparently involves pension contributions and cost-of-living increases for transit workers (have to read more about it, as they say). It also looks like our illustrious governor, Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett, is going to ask Obama to appoint an executive-level commission, or something, to look into the matter, meaning that the striking workers will have to return to their jobs for a minimum of 240 days.

    I’m noting this particularly because of the following (here)…

    Bucks County Commissioner Charles H. Martin, who serves on SEPTA’s board of directors, said he was not aware of any plans by Bucks officials to handle potential traffic headaches.

    “Frankly, I don’t know what we could do,” he said.

    He said most people employed by the county and working in the county seat of Doylestown already drive to work, and would be unaffected by a Regional Rail strike.

    I know this may be hard for Mr. “I Have A Semi-Open Mind” to comprehend, but not all of the residents of Bucks County work in Doylestown (facepalm).

    Here’s a thought – why not try to encourage businesses to arrange staggered shifts for their employees or set up/encourage telecommuting or flex time options? Do anything you can to try and alleviate further traffic problems that may result from the strike!

    God, what a maroon (Update 6/16/14 – Hopefully, though, the strike won’t be an issue based in part on this)…

  • Finally (and returning to Fix Noise), I give you the following here

    This week, the president is speaking and acting on the issue of student loans for higher education. He appears to truly believe that a college education is important and is taking executive action to help students pay for their education. This seems like a straightforward feel-good issue…except there is a painful irony hiding behind the president’s words and actions.

    A closer look at the president’s Department of Education, sadly, reveals an elitist streak when it comes to higher education. At the same time that the president is speaking grandly about helping students pay for college, his education department is moving forward on a regulation that would severely limit the opportunity for college for a certain type of student — those attending non-traditional, private-sector colleges.

    There’s a hell of a lot of “red meat” and “dog whistle” language in what I suppose is a column that’s primarily an editorial as opposed to actual news (Number 44 is “elitist” and “classist,” etc., whatever the hell that means).

    I suppose this Jean Card person from Fox is responding to this news story (including the following)…

    The Obama administration is proposing to tighten oversight of for-profit colleges through new rules that seek to limit how much debt students can amass in career-training programs.

    The proposal, announced Friday, is the administration’s second try at regulations setting standards for what colleges must do to ensure that graduates of career programs get “gainful employment.”

    The first gainful employment initiative, debated from 2009 to 2011, spawned a huge campaign by for-profit colleges to block new regulation. The colleges, supported by many congressional Republicans and some Democrats, said then that they had been unfairly targeted and that the initiative would hurt low-income students.

    Obama administration officials said they were trying to protect those students from low-quality programs that would saddle them with too much debt.

    The Education Department issued a rule in 2011 that set standards for loan-repayment rates and the ratio of graduates’ debt to income. Programs that failed the tests could be disqualified from participation in the federal student aid, which would essentially shut them down. But in 2012, a federal judge blocked major provisions of that rule, forcing the department to start over.

    The new proposal jettisons the repayment-rate metric. Instead, it would require that the estimated loan payments of typical graduates not exceed 20 percent of discretionary income or 8 percent of total annual income.

    If someone has a principled disagreement with what Obama is trying to do here, then I honestly get that. I do support the president on this, I wish to emphasize, because I don’t see anyone else out there lifting a finger to try in rein in student debt.

    More information on this is available from here, including the following…

    A year ago, President Obama set a national goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. But because of the high costs of college, about two-thirds of graduates take out loans with an average student debt of over $23,000. This debt is particularly burdensome for graduates who choose to enter lower-paying public service careers, suffer setbacks such as unemployment or serious illness, or fail to complete their degree.

    To ensure that Americans can afford their student loan payments, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act gives student borrowers new choices in how they repay their loans. The initiative was developed by the Middle Class Task Force chaired by Vice President Biden, and it will expand the income-based repayment plan for federal student loans that was put in place last summer. More than 1.2 million borrowers are projected to qualify and take part in the expanded IBR program.

    Under this new law, students enrolling in 2014 or later can choose to:

    Limit Payments to 10 Percent of Income: Borrowers choosing the income-based repayment plan will pay no more than 10 percent of their income above a basic living allowance, reduced from 15 percent under current law. The basic living allowance varies with family size and is set at 150 percent of the poverty line, currently equaling about $16,500 for a single individual and $33,000 for a family of four.

    ◦More than 1 million borrowers would be eligible to reduce their monthly payments.

    ◦The payment will be reduced by more than $110 per month for a single borrower who earns $30,000 a year and owes $20,000 in college loans, based on 2009 figures.

    Forgive Any Remaining Debt after 20 Years, or after 10 Years for Those in Public Service: Borrowers who take responsibility for their loans and make their monthly payments will see their remaining balance forgiven after 20 years of payments, reduced from 25 years in current law.

    ◦Public service workers – such as teachers, nurses, and those in military service – will see any remaining debt forgiven after 10 years.

    Fully Funded by Student Loan Reforms: These new initiatives are funded by ending the current subsidies given to financial institutions that make guaranteed federal student loans. Starting July 1, all new loans will be direct loans delivered and collected by private companies under performance-based contracts with the Department of Education. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, ending these wasteful subsidies will free up nearly $68 billion for college affordability and deficit reduction over the next 11 years.

    And by the way, let’s not forget that the ridiculous practice of paying subsidies to financial institutions for basically nothing as part of the student loan process was ended by congressional Democrats in March 2010, with nary a single Republican voting in support (here).

    Oh, and speaking of the “respectful opposition,” this tells us that Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao did what he does best, and that was to launch yet another filibuster, this time of the student loan legislation sponsored by Dem Senator Elizabeth Warren (“come back louder” indeed).

    And things are no better in the House, of course; I give you the following…

    Congressman Fitzpatrick votes to protect the ultra-wealthy and votes against making college more affordable for America’s students and families

    Today, Congressman Fitzpatrick voted with Republicans to block H.R. 4582 “Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act,” the House version of Senator Warren’s companion bill that would allow students to refinance their loans at much lower rates than they are currently paying today.

    Congressman Fitzpatrick’s Republican budget charges students $40 billion more in loan interest, in order to pay for more tax breaks for those who need help the least, like special interests and the wealthiest Americans. Today’s vote was the latest in a record that clearly places the interests of banks above those of students.

    “Once again, Congressman Fitzpatrick gave us a clear view of his priorities when he voted with the Republicans against a bill that would lower the cost of education for students. Congressman Fitzpatrick has no problem standing up for tax breaks for the bankers and special interests he is supposed to regulate as a member of the House Financial Services Committee–but when it comes to helping Bucks County students and their families pay for college, Fitzpatrick turns his back on them” Strouse said.

    Strouse added, “Congressman Fitzpatrick continues to vote to protect the interests of wealthy bankers, while ignoring the needs of the middle-class. If America is going to succeed in a 21st century economy, we need to have the best-educated, best-trained workforce possible, and Congressman Fitzpatrick voting against making college more affordable for students in Pennsylvania’s 8th District is exactly the kind of representation we do not need in Washington.”

    ###

    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 Strouse in his campaign against Mikey the Beloved (and stand up on this among many other important issues), please click here.


  • Friday Mashup (9/13/13)

    September 13, 2013
  • I give you the following recent column on the whole Syria thing, including this excerpt…

    Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) said Monday that Congress would not be debating the use of U.S. military force against Syria if President Obama hadn’t drawn a “red line.”

    “I have no doubt that if the president had not drawn his red line we would not be having this discussion,” Coats said on the Senate floor. “It is the credibility issue that has brought us to this pass and it’s a credibility issue that is [Obama’s] own making.”

    Dan Coats has no room whatsoever to try and talk down to anyone on foreign policy issues (or most anything else when you get right down to it).

    As noted from here concerning the run-up to Dubya’s Not-So-Excellent Adventure in Mesopotamia (at which time Coats was our ambassador to Germany, giving that country the “old Europe” treatment a la Rummy I suppose)…

    “The German Government still says it will not support a war. But its leaders say that war may no longer be avoidable. And the US is twisting their arms hard. The US Ambassador to Berlin, Daniel Coats, has made clear this is a crucial test of Germany’s loyalty to the NATO alliance. The government’s stance has raised “serious doubts” about Germany’s reliability, Mr. Coats said.

    (And on unrelated matters, I think it’s interesting to note that Dubya chose Coats to try and “shepherd,” more or less, the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, which of course failed. Also, Coats was one of 46 Senators to oppose the expansion of background checks for gun buyers, both of which are noted here.)

    I also came across this article on Syria and its chemical weapons stockpiles, which of course are indefensible; that being said, it should be noted that, in addition to Syria, Israel and Egypt also didn’t sign the Chemical Weapons Convention (interesting background at the very least); only 8 out of 193 countries are not party to the convention.

    Also, in the matter of Syria, I was wondering what that Pulitzer Prize-winning (ugh) foreign affairs columnist at the Murdoch Street Journal, none other than Bret Stephens, had to say on the matter (here).

    There’s a lot I could respond to, but partly because I’ve covered this stuff repeatedly in the past along with many others, I’ll stick to a couple of items (and yes, this stuff is completely predictable)…

    In London the other day, Mr. Kerry invited the public to examine the administration’s evidence of Assad’s use of chemical weapons, posted on whitehouse.gov. The “dossier” consists of a 1,455-word document heavy on blanket assertions such as “we assess with high confidence” and “we have a body of information,” and “we have identified one hundred videos.”

    By contrast, the Bush administration made a highly detailed case on Iraqi WMD, including show-and-tells by Colin Powell at the Security Council.

    Lather, rinse, repeat (here)…

    It also relied on the testimony of U.N. inspectors like Hans Blix, who reported in January 2003 that “there are strong indications that Iraq produced more anthrax than it declared,” that his inspectors had found “indications that the [nerve agent VX] was weaponized,” and that Iraq had “circumvented the restrictions” on the import of missile parts.

    You mean the same Hans Blix who told CNN here that Bushco “chose to ignore” the fact that the case for the Iraq war was “rapidly falling apart”?

    The case the Bush administration assembled on Iraqi WMD was far stronger than what the Obama administration has offered on Syria. And while I have few doubts that the case against Assad is solid, it shouldn’t shock Democrats that the White House’s “trust us” approach isn’t winning converts. When you’ve spent years peddling the libel that the Bush administration lied about Iraq, don’t be shocked when your goose gets cooked in the same foul sauce.

    That’s a truly hilarious comment to think about as you read this.

    I’ll tell you what – here is the Media Matters post where I got the CNN link; I’ll let them take a well-earned last shot at “foul sauce” Stephens on this issue.

    Update 1/2/14: A new year, but the same old Stephens wankery here (h/t Atrios)…

  • Next (and sticking with foreign policy), we also recently observed the one-year anniversary of the Benghazi attacks, a tragedy that has been politicized beyond all possible reason; here is another example…

    Gregory Hicks is no stranger to regular readers. The State Department official, who was second-in-command to murdered Amb. Chris Stevens in Libya, was one of the star witnesses during the House Oversight Committee’s Benghazi hearings this past spring. Visibly frustrated by the lack of accountability over last year’s deadly attacks, Hicks appeared on ABC News to share his story. America Rising collected the highlights of his interview with George Stephanopolous, including Hicks’ assertion that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton assigned Stevens to man the under-protected diplomatic post, despite documented security risks. He also reiterated that he personally and “immediately” informed State brass that the raid was an act of terrorism:

    And yet the White House deliberately trotted out and stuck to false talking points about the nature and cause of the attack for weeks. Internal emails have revealed that the counter-factual narrative was concocted by members of the State Department’s “building leadership,” who wanted to avoid political criticism for their security failures. Two of the players most responsible for perpetrating this fallacious storyline have been rewarded by President Obama with promotions. Hicks also says that he’s been “shunted aside” because of his truth-telling:

    O-kaaaayyyyy

    Meanwhile, from the world of reality, I give you this

    Hicks was not punished for speaking out. (Host of “This Week With George”) Stephanopoulos read from a State Department letter which explained that “The State Department has not punished Mr. Hicks in any way” and his departure from Libya “was entirely unrelated to any statements” he made about Benghazi.

    In fact, Hicks’ claim about being punished contradicts his previous testimony about not returning to his assignment in Libya. During his testimony at a May 8 House Oversight Committee hearing, Hicks explained that “my family really didn’t want me to go back. … So I voluntarily curtailed” returning to Libya.

    I think the real tragedy of BENGHAZI! BENGHAZI! BENGHAZI! BENGHAZI! BENGHAZI!!! is the fact that we really should have an intelligent investigation into exactly what happened, as opposed to an exercise in trying to score political points. Maybe we could have done a better job of providing an adequate level of embassy security, but if the State Department is going to take a hit, then so should the wretched “leadership” in the U.S. House, which didn’t provide adequate funding for security to begin with, as noted here.

  • Continuing, I thought this was an interesting little historical item…

    A commission looking into the death of former United Nations Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold has recommended that the UN reopen its investigation.

    Mr Hammarskjold’s plane was travelling to Congo on a peace mission in 1961 when it crashed in Zambia.
    A UN investigation in 1962 failed to find the cause of the mysterious crash.

    The commission said there were significant new findings, and that the US National Security Agency might hold crucial evidence.

    In a statement, the UN thanked the commission and said the UN secretariat would study its findings closely.

    And as noted here

    In Congo, one issue was who should control the southern province of Katanga, rich in copper, uranium and tin. Belgium, the ex-colonial power, backed a secessionist movement led by Moise Tshombe, as did the UK and US who had mining interests in the region.

    But Mr Hammarskjold from the start backed Congo’s elected central authorities – the Soviet-backed government of prime minister Patrice Lumumba, and later, after Mr Lumumba was deposed and murdered, Prime Minister Cyrille Adoula.

    Mr Hammarskjold wanted to pursue a negotiated solution between Mr Tshombe and the central government, a goal that became even more urgent after UN peacekeepers found themselves outgunned during an aggressive operation to drive foreign mercenaries from Katanga.

    Mr Tshombe was waiting to talk to him in Ndola on the night he died.

    Some 30 years after the crash, in 1992, two men who had served as UN representatives in Katanga just before and just after Hammarskjold’s death – Conor Cruise O’Brien and George Ivan Smith – wrote a letter to the Guardian claiming to have evidence that the plane was shot down accidentally, by mercenaries. In their view, a warning shot intended to divert the plane to alternative talks with industrialists in Katanga, in fact hit the plane and caused it to crash.

    In 1998 South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, led by Desmond Tutu, published eight letters that suggested CIA, MI5 and South African intelligence were involved in sabotage of the aircraft. British officials responded that these were likely to be Soviet forgeries.

    In 2005, the head of UN military information in Congo in 1961, Bjorn Egge, told the Aftenposten newspaper he had noticed a round hole in Hammarskjold’s forehead when he saw the body in the mortuary. It could have been a bullet hole, he said, and it had been mysteriously airbrushed out of official photographs.

    Over the past four years, Swedish aid worker Goran Bjorkdahl has carried out extensive research and British academic Susan Williams published a book on Thursday – Who Killed Hammarskjold? Both conclude that it is likely the plane was brought down.

    So it’s possible that there was some kind of a conspiracy between the U.S. and the UK (and Belgium) to get their hands on the copper, uranium, and tin, and to keep it out of the hands of the then-Soviet Union, and Hammarskjold was in the way (though he had also planned to meet apparently with Tshombe, who was backed by the three countries not including the U.S.S.R. Curious, as is the Ace of Spades card supposedly found in Hammarskjold’s collar when you consider this).

  • Further, I have to say that I honestly don’t understand the right-wing attack on anything whatsoever related to clean or renewable energy, unless of course you just want to chalk it up to funding from oil-based energy interests and nothing more, and I’m sure there’s more than a bit of truth to that.

    I’m thinking of all of this, though, in response to this item

    After only about one month of production, the Obama-backed maker of batteries for the Chevy Volt will delay production again.

    Oh, of course, how stupid of me not to realize that an attack on anything whatsoever to do with clean energy is also an attack on that Kenyan Marxist Socialist pre-zee-dint of ours.

    Continuing…

    Autoblog rep0orts that the South Korea-based LG Chem plant in Holland, Michigan that started making Chevy Volt batteries about one month ago — about a year behind schedule — will pause work for six weeks until the Environmental Protection Agency confirms the registration status of an “unspecified, low-volume ingredient” used in their battery production.

    “We discovered the possibility that this material may not be properly registered and made the decision to pause our production until we have that question resolved,” LG Chem said in a statement. “We are currently reviewing the registration status and will work with the EPA to resolve the issue quickly. In the meanwhile, we are delaying production activities for approximately six weeks until we have confirmed the registration status or otherwise obtain approval from EPA.”

    The Daily Tucker also tells us the following…

    An Energy Department audit found that LG Chem’s workers were paid $842,000 to essentially do nothing, as some played video games, watched movies or played cards. Other workers even took the time to volunteer at charities.

    Of course, far be it for Tucker Carlson’s Crayon Scribble Page to tell us that we’re talking about 400 workers here, according to this linked story.

    Sooo, while I’m no math whiz, I should point out that $842,000 divided by about 400 workers comes out to about $2,100. And while I’m not a fan of sloth on the job or not doing what you’re paid to do, I should note that that amount probably reflects a small portion of their actual salaries (like to see comparable figures for businesses that actually don’t take government funds).

    Meanwhile, it looks now that the Chevy Volt has set a monthly sales record (here), so I’m sure there’ll be a need for more batteries (as I said, though, attacking hybrids like this is something the wingnutosphere is inclined to do anyway, as noted here).

  • Finally, I didn’t want the week to end without some commentary on the elections in Colorado recently, where state senate head John Morse and state senator Angela Giron were ousted.

    Michael Sargent, Exec. Director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, put it this way…

    There’s a reason why Republicans chose recalls instead of waiting for next year’s election: Hand-picked targets, odd timing, and extremely low turnout – made lower by 100-year-old recall rules that gutted early voting – created ideal conditions for the GOP, and because of it, they won two seats they otherwise wouldn’t have.

    Right wing groups also ran hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of attack ads, but with help from thousands of grassroots Democrats…we fought back hard. You left it all on the field; so did Sens. Morse and Giron, and so did we.

    I think that’s largely true, particularly in the case of Morse, who lost by only 343 votes. You can’t tell me he would’ve lost a similar campaign in a regular election cycle with early voting (not so sure about Giron, but I probably have to do more research on that).

    For more on this, a Daily Kos post is here, a Media Matters post is here, and an article from The Hill is here. I think these are the following “takeaways”:

  • As Media Matters points out, even though Morse and Giron both lost, their positions on common-sense gun laws remain hugely popular in this country.
  • As the article from The Hill tells us, DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz blamed the Republican wins on “voter suppression, pure and simple” (I think that’s most of the argument, but not all of it).
  • As the Daily Kos post tells us, it’s going to be awfully hard for any Democrat to win any election where the turnout rate is 21 percent (and yes, the suppression tactics had a lot to do with that, I’ll admit; the post also tells us that, maybe next time, our side should take some money spent on TV ads and put it into a stronger “ground game” instead).
  • We know that, as the Republican Party gets pulled more and more to the right, their chances of winning the White House get exponentially harder also, a problem totally of their own making (though we can never assume anything – I thought Dubya had no chance against Al Gore in 2000, and he mostly didn’t, but we know what happened). However, the other side of that coin, as it were, is that, in perpetually energizing their base, they remain revved up for the off-year and special elections (even though Dems have won their share of the latter).

    I see a bit of that in the results from Colorado. And I definitely see that in the campaigns in my locality, including Kevin Strouse running for the U.S. House against Mikey the Beloved (here), Allyson Schwartz (assuming she’s the Dem nominee) running against Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett for PA guv (here), and John Lewis and Mark Moffa running for Lower Makefield Township, Bucks County supervisors (here).

    (Oh, and by the way, I have a request for the Strouse campaign; try writing a Letter to the Editor or an Op-Ed of some type for the Bucks County Courier Times introducing yourself. That rag published that editorial weeks ago saying that they didn’t trust you, or something, and I never saw a response from the campaign. And stop sending me so many Emails about John Boehner – he isn’t the PA-08 rep!).

    We know that all elections are ultimately local, and the Repugs do too. And we need more involvement in the off-year contests if we’re going to effect change for real in this country, whether it’s on any of the vital issues we face.

    I don’t want to hear anyone else ask the question “why can’t we have common-sense gun laws?,” or “why can’t we have more of a commitment in this country to clean energy?,” or “why can’t we have serious infrastructure investment and job creation.” We saw the reason why earlier this week.

    We have to have an answer for the off-year election base energy of the other side, and it doesn’t matter what election we’re talking about. Unless we do, nothing will substantially change.

    That being said, I should note that I think this is pretty cool – this, from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, is a map of everyone in this country who donated on behalf of Morse and Giron.

    There’s still much to do, but that’s a good start.


  • Friday Mashup (9/6/13)

    September 7, 2013

  • I give you the following from the Bucks County Courier Times earlier in the week:

    Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick used the national Republican Weekly Address on Saturday to criticize President Barack Obama’s policies for health care and energy.

    “Nearly five years into the Obama presidency, the workers who drive our economy see nothing but roadblocks coming out of Washington,” Fitzpatrick said in the Labor Day weekend speech.

    The 8th District Republican, who recorded the talk Thursday in Philadelphia, has been critical of Obama’s Affordable Care Act in visits to several area chambers of commerce in recent months.

    No word on whether or not Mikey the Beloved has spoken to actual non-Chamber of Commerce residents of PA-08 for their feedback on the Affordable Care Act, by the way (I’ll address his comment about the ACA and the alleged increase in premiums shortly…and in the matter of the Keystone XL pipeline which Mikey also supports, I give you the following from here and here).

    I wonder if it’s supposed to be a bit of a backhanded compliment to Mikey that he was asked to give the Repug response to Obama’s weekly address on what probably is the day when people are least likely to pay attention to it because it’s the last unofficial weekend of summer (and by the way, to respond to “roadblock Mikey” properly, click here).

  • And keeping with the theme of the health care law, I give you the following from here (looks like The Weakly Standard needs a copy editor)…

    A local report from Green Bay, Wisconsin says that health care premiuns (sic) could increase up to 125 percent because of Obamacare:

    Half a million Wisconsinites will soon have to open up their pocket books for health care coverage,” says a local anchor. “And new estimates show, it may be costly. … The state’s office of the commissioner of insurance released estimates of how premium rates for individuals will be changing under the Affordable Care Act.”

    In response, I give you the following from here

    (A Rand Corporation) Analysis suggests that comparisons of average premiums with and without the Affordable Care Act may overstate the potential for premium increases. Sweeping statements about the effects of the Affordable Care Act on premiums should be interpreted very carefully because the law has complex effects that differ depending on individuals’ age and smoking status, the actuarial value of the plan chose, individuals” eligibility for federal tax credits, and state implementation decisions. Once we adjust for age, actuarial value, and tobacco use, nongroup premiums are estimated to remain unchanged at the national level and in many states. Further, after accounting for tax credits, average out-of-pocket premium spending in the nongroup market is estimated to decline or remain unchanged in all states considered and in in the nation overall. [RAND Corporation, Accessed 9/4/13]

    In addition, this may be the most definitive post I’ve seen yet on supposed rate increases under HCR (with further “food for thought” here).

  • Next, I know I’m a little late with this Labor Day-related commentary also based on this from The Philadelphia Inquirer, but here it is anyway…

    Organized labor is so powerful in Philadelphia that people in this town might not realize unions are in real trouble nationally. Labor Day is a good time to reflect on that reality.

    Just a few days ago, union picketers made the local TV news by blasting the amplified sound of a baby’s recorded cries during daily protests of nonunion work at a hotel, disturbing guests and a Center City neighborhood. Weeks earlier, a strike at the Pennsylvania Convention Center threatened a major convention.

    Meanwhile, the political clout of labor leaders such as electricians boss John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty can be calculated by the number of Philadelphia officials who all but genuflect in the presence of a man who controls a significant source of campaign contributions.

    Far be it for me to leap to the defense of “Johnny Doc,” but to say that the Inky is “painting with a broad brush” here is an understatement (a bit surprised that the Inky didn’t also blame the Teamsters for blowing up the inflatable rat that they often do in an effort to shame companies that hire non-union workers; as far as I’m concerned, that’s free speech and I have no problem with it).

    I would only point out once more the contributions of the union movement to workers of all sectors of our economy, some of which are noted here. And I would say that the video noted here shows pretty well that the decline in union membership and the rise of income inequality pretty much go hand in hand.

    The Inquirer points out that the downward trend in union membership began in 1983, which is two years after perhaps the most catastrophic anti-union event perpetrated by our government, and that was the firing of the air traffic controllers as part of the showdown with PATCO (their union at the time) by The Sainted Ronnie R, as noted here, the reverberations of which we are still feeling today.

  • Continuing, I give you some genuine hilarity from Erick (“Son of Erick”) Erickson of Fix Noise here, in response to Number 44 on Syria…

    George W. Bush, getting congressional approval for military operations seven days after the September 11th attack was not bending the arc of history, but John Harwood will probably spend the next week of reporting telling us all exactly how arc bending Barack Obama is.

    Sooo…is “Son of Erick” actually beating on John Harwood for supposedly carrying the water, as they say, of President Obama? And not doing the same for Former President Nutball? Really???

    As noted here, Harwood said the following about Number 43…

    …the 9/11 attacks gave (Bush) enough standing eventually to take the nation to war against Iraq.

    Oh, and as noted here, Harwood also once criticized Obama when Number 44 decided to “move…out from behind speechmaking lecterns.” And as far as Harwood supposedly sucking up to Obama goes, I also give you this.

    And is Erickson referring to the same Harwood who once claimed that Dubya was “doggedly advancing conservative goals on taxes and national security” here? Oh, but according to “Son of Erick,” Harwood should have claimed that Dubya was “bending the arc of history,” or something.

    And as we know, Erickson is always a model for prudence and discretion in his “reporting” of the news stories that touch our lives on a daily basis. Right?

    Gosh, if I didn’t know better, I’d swear Erickson is taking hallucinogenic drugs (and no, I won’t stop linking to that until Harwood apologizes, something I’m sure he’ll never do).

  • Further, I give you the following from former Repug U.S. House Rep Pete Hoekstra, also on the Syria crisis (here)…

    Why did partisanship disrupt our foreign policy unity? Was it due to political opportunism or genuine policy differences?

    We may never know.

    Actually, I think we know right now – as noted here, Hoekstra and Former PA Senator Man-On-Dog tried to circulate a discredited claim about Saddam Hussein’s WMD. Also, as noted here, Hoekstra opined in April 2009 that the reaction of the Obama Administration to the ”enhanced interrogation” methods of our prior ruling cabal “are demonstrating how little President Barack Obama and some Democratic members of Congress understand the dire threats to our nation,” which was particularly stupid on Hoekstra’s part because all Obama wanted to do basically was to “turn the page.”

    (By the way, the same prior post from yours truly notes the truly wretched “sock puppetry” of Hoekstra in the matter of feeding the bogus claim to Time’s Joe Klein that the version of the FISA bill from the Democrats required warrants for every foreign terrorist’s call and that the bill thus gave the same rights to foreign terrorists as American citizens…yes, the Dems eventually caved on FISA, to their shame, but that doesn’t make the Hoekstra/Klein episode any less galling.)

    As noted here, Rachel Maddow basically said that everyone from Bushco should just go away when it comes to opining on Syria, since they were so catastrophically wrong on Iraq (I would argue that that extends to all other foreign policy issues also). Based on this bit of wankery from Hoekstra, I think that goes for him too.

  • Finally, I should note that BP ran a full-page ad in the Murdoch Street Journal on Thursday with quotes from Tom Donahue of the “U.S.” Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers whining about how BP has already paid $10 billion in damages and blaming those dastardly trial lawyers once again – typical.

    In response, I give you the following:

  • This tells us a bit about the lawsuits currently pending against BP, including Florida joining a four-state suit.
  • This tells us that, maybe and just perhaps, the reason why those dastardly trial lawyers are involved is because BP is suing the EPA (so I guess the government isn’t entitled to represent itself?).
  • This basically tells us that accusing settlement victims of “taking money they don’t deserve” isn’t exactly going to “win hearts and minds” either (and the Journal ad cites the “U.S.” Chamber, but doesn’t note that BP is a member).
  • This tells us that the gulf oil spill’s settlement administrator has said that BP’s claims of fraud are “spurious” and “unfounded.”
  • Oh, and by the way, BP wants to “halt the Deepwater Horizon claims process” altogether, as noted here.


    That makes them the scum of the earth as far as I’m concerned.


  • Friday Mashup (8/30/13)

    August 30, 2013

    sexism-2

  • I came across this item from clownhall.com and columnist Walter Williams, and I thought it best to offer it pretty much with just my opinion on it and no links to other stuff (he’s upset because his employer, George Mason University – first sign of trouble – apparently has told him that he has to attend some kind of sexual harassment prevention training; sounds like it was mandated across the board for all university employees)…

    I’m guilty of gross violation of equality of opportunity, racism and possibly sexism. Back in 1960, when interviewing people to establish a marital contract, every woman wasn’t given an equal opportunity. I discriminated against not only white, Indian, Asian, Mexican and handicapped women but men of any race. My choices were confined to good-looking black women. You say, “Williams, that kind of discrimination doesn’t harm anyone!” Nonsense! When I married Mrs. Williams, other women were harmed by having a reduced opportunity set.

    I’ve read this paragraph about four times, and I still can’t totally get my head around (as they say) the unbelievable egotism of that remark, to say nothing of sexism.

    I will give Williams points for consistency, though. As noted here from about three years ago, he was cited by Ed Schultz for saying pretty much the same thing, equating mistreatment from a private business as the same thing as what one does when picking a spouse (at the time, he also complimented a caller for the caller’s wife being “under control” or something). The line about other women “having a reduced opportunity set” when Williams decided to marry is an obnoxious new wrinkle, though.

    This, to me, is part of what lies in the coal-black heart of movement conservatism, my fellow prisoners, and that is a loathing bordering on outright animosity towards anyone or anything that isn’t in their little club (women, minorities, LGBT individuals, the poor, the elderly, children, anyone who has paid into a government entitlement of any kind who, quite rightly, now expects a payout for any one of a number of reasons, etc.).

    One more thing – if my employer told me “Doomsy, we just implemented a company-wide policy dictating that everyone has to take a sexual harassment awareness course within a year,” guess what? I would do it and be grateful for the opportunity to still collect a paycheck (though I’m sure Williams, who occasionally sits in for the OxyContin addict on his radio show, has at least one other “revenue stream” to draw on if his employer fires his sorry ass to enforce a principle…how lucky can a guy get?).

  • Next, I have to admit a bit of perverse curiosity to see how the wingnutosphere covered the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech; I saw some truly ponderous piffle that I decided to ignore…but then I happened to come across this from Jennifer Rubin of Jeff Bezos Daily…

    President Obama has consistently and deliberately tried to identify with Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln and FDR. It’s not enough to let pundits and the public make these analogies, the president goes out of his way to announce his connection with these historical giants, no matter how strained the analogy. Who can blame him? He’s a president whose approval is under water, whose domestic agenda is stalled and whose foreign policy is in utter disarray. A failing president naturally wants to walk in others’ shoes.

    As far as Obama’s approval rating being “under water,” this from Fix Noise (yeah, I know) has him at 42 percent – not great I know, but a number Obama’s wretched predecessor would have grabbed with both hands, as it were, if he had the chance.

    And speaking of Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History and a “connection with…historical giants, no matter how strained the analogy,” I give you this from the 2000 Rethuglican National Convention in the City of Brotherly Love (and as noted here, Rubin is a Dubya cheerleader from waay back)…

    Mr. Chairman, delegates, and my fellow citizens … I accept your nomination. Thank you for this honor. Together, we will renew America’s purpose.

    Our founders first defined that purpose here in Philadelphia … Ben Franklin was here. Thomas Jefferson. And, of course, George Washington — or, as his friends called him, “George W.”

    And that was before he was even “elected” (sorry to make you revisit that).

    And another thing – the only way Obama “associated” with Dr. King was to make a speech to commemorate the anniversary. How does that qualify as “associating”? Others, including veep Joe Biden, gave speeches – does that mean Biden is “associating” with Dr. King too? If not, why not?

    Actually, given all of this, I think the former ombudsman for the WaPo is definitely onto something here.

  • Continuing, I came across a bit of a curious item here

    MSNBC’s Karen Finney on Monday hung up on conservative talker Hugh Hewitt after he repeatedly asked her during an interview on his radio show to say whether Alger Hiss was a communist.

    Hewitt had Finney on his program to discuss her statement on her weekend show that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s rhetoric on health care is reminiscent of the “fear stoking” of Joe McCarthy, who she said “also wanted to take his country back, then it was from the communists who had supposedly infiltrated it.” While Cruz’s mission might be different than McCarthy’s, Finney told viewers of her show “Disrupt,” “the rhetoric sounds eerily the same.”

    Well, apparently, after Finney called into Hewitt’s show, the host started badgering her with questions asking her if she knew of any communists that had infiltrated the U.S. government during the McCarthy era. And things predictably went downhill from there to the point where Hewitt started badgering Finney also with the Alger Hiss stuff.

    When I heard about this, the following question occurred to me: why would Finney call into the Hewitt show in the first place? Did she honestly think Hewitt would be interested in having a serious discussion of whether or not “Calgary” Cruz was really using tactics a la Joe McCarthy? How would she not know that, typical for right-wing media, she would be attacked immediately for some minor or even imaginary point, with the fairly substantive issue she raised being totally ignored?

    As far as I’m concerned, a phrase used to describe our politics any more with a variation of the name “McCarthy” in it is a bit trite by now. I’m not saying we should ignore real or potential demagogues, only that, if we’re going to engage in accusations, we should be as precise as we can be.

    That being said, I don’t know if Cruz is really the Joe McCarthy of our era or not (no many culprits to choose from, unfortunately…Steve King, Louie Gohmert, Steve Stockman…almost a new one every week). What I do know is that, when the comparison to McCarthy was mentioned to Cruz, he embraced it, as noted here (to me, the correct answer should have been “I don’t appreciate that comparison, I wish you wouldn’t make it, and I defy you to show me how it is appropriate,” which of course would lead to a substantive discussion – exactly the sort of thing Cruz doesn’t want, apparently).

    And in the matter of Alger Hiss, I don’t know whether he was a communist or not. I do know that he was convicted of perjury, not espionage, and he spent the rest of his life trying to clear his name (and in a bit of a historical quirk, he managed to outlive his chief accuser, then-Republican U.S. House Representative Richard Nixon of Whittier, CA, by two years).

  • Further (and I don’t know if anyone else will care about this except me, but here I go anyway), I came across the following item from The Weakly Standard…

    President Obama and Attorney General Holder met with a group of 18 mayors at the White House on Tuesday afternoon. The meeting was billed as a discussion “with mayors from cities around the country to discuss reducing youth violence.” And although Republicans hold about a quarter of mayoral positions in the fifty largest cities in the U.S., only one Republican mayor was in attendance at the meeting: Greg Ballard of Indianapolis. The remaining mayors included sixteen Democrats and one independent.

    According to recent data, there are twelve Republicans among the mayors of the fifty largest U.S. cities. Twelve of the eighteen cities represented at the White House meeting are among those fifty.

    OK, so the inference is pretty clear here that President Obama wanted to meet pretty much with Democratic mayors and nobody else. Got it.

    So, with that in mind, I put together the following table from the information linked to Wikipedia nested in the Standard post on the 50 largest U.S. cities as well as other information in the Standard post, and I came up with the following table (R stands for Republican, D for Democrat, and I for Independent, in case you had any doubt about that).

    Name City R D I Attended
    Bach, Steve Colorado Springs X
    Ballard, Greg Indianapolis X Y
    Barrett, Tom Milwaukee X Y
    Bartlett, Jr., Dewey Tulsa X
    Berry, Richard Albuquerque X
    Bing, Dave Detroit X
    Bloomberg, Michael NYC X
    Booker, Cory Newark, NJ X Y
    Brewer, Carl Wichita X
    Brown, Alvin Jacksonville X
    Castro, Julian San Antonio X
    Cluck, Robert Arlington, TX X
    Coleman, Michael Columbus, OH X
    Cook, John El Paso X
    Cornett, Mick Oklahoma City X
    Dean, Karl Nashville X
    Emanuel, Rahm Chicago X
    Filner, Bob (for now) San Diego X
    Fischer, Greg Louisville X
    Foster, Bob Long Beach X
    Garcetti, Eric LA X
    Goodman, Carolyn Las Vegas X
    Gray, Vincent Washington, D.C. X Y
    Hales, Charlie Portland, OR X
    Hancock, Mike Denver X
    Jackson, Frank Cleveland X
    James, Sly Kansas City, MO X Y
    Johnson, Kevin Sacramento X Y
    Kinsey, Patsy Charlotte X
    Landrieu, Mitch New Orleans X Y
    Lee, Ed San Francisco X
    Leffingwell, Lee Austin X
    Mallory, Mark Cincinnati X Y
    McFarlane, Nancy Raleigh X
    McGinn, Mike Seattle X
    Menino, Thomas Boston X
    Nutter, Michael Philadelphia X Y
    Parker, Annise Houston X Y
    Price, Betsy Fort Worth X
    Quan, Jean Oakland X Y
    Rawlings, Mike Dallas X
    Rawlings-Blake, Stephanie Baltimore X Y
    Reed, Chuck San Jose X Y
    Reed, Kasim Atlanta X
    Regalado, Tomas Miami X
    Rothschild, Jon Colorado Springs X
    Rybak, R.T. Minneapolis X Y
    Sessoms, Will Virginia Beach X
    Slay, Francis St. Louis X Y
    Smith, Scott Mesa X
    Stanton, Greg Phoenix X
    Stothert, Jean Omaha X
    Swearengin, Ashley Fresno X
    Walling, Dayne Flint X Y
    Ward, Molly Hampton X Y
    Wharton, A.C. Memphis X Y

    What we learn is that, as the Standard tells us, 11 Republican mayors were indeed absent.

    Do you know, however, how many Democratic mayors were absent also? 23, that’s how many.

    And they are as follows:

    Bing, Dave
    Brewer, Carl
    Brown, Alvin
    Castro, Julian
    Cook, John
    Dean, Karl
    Emmanuel, Rahm
    Filner, Bob (for now)
    Fischer, Greg
    Foster, Bob
    Garcetti, Eric
    Hales, Charlie
    Hancock, Mike
    Jackson, Frank
    Kinsey, Patsy
    Leffingwell, Lee
    Hales, Charlie
    Hancock, Mike
    Jackson, Frank
    Rawlings, Mike
    Reed, Kasim
    Rothschild, Jon
    Stanton, Greg

    I should add that I do not have any information from the White House on who was actually invited (and I‘m assuming the Standard is correct in who actually attended), so the table above reflects a bit of guesswork on my part from the available information.

    I realize that the wingnutosphere really doesn’t have a reason to exist unless it’s trying to gin up one type of “scandal” or another, but as these things go, this one is pretty “weak tea.”

  • Finally, it seems that conservatives overall are all lovey-dovey with actor Ashton Kutcher over a speech he recently gave at the Teen Choice Awards, in which he stated the following (recounted here by Cal Thomas of Fix Noise, self-appointed spokesman for supposedly all things moral)…

    Following screams from young female fans in the audience, Kutcher silenced them with a motivational message that bordered on inspiration. He told them: “I believe that opportunity looks a lot like hard work. … I’ve never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job. And every job I had was a steppingstone to my next job, and I never quit my job until I had my next job.”

    Kutcher wasn’t through: “The sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart and being thoughtful and being generous. Everything else is c–p … that people try to sell to you to make you feel like less. So don’t buy it. Be smart, be thoughtful and be generous.”

    If only Washington politicians would think and talk this way.

    Actually, one of them did recently, stating the following from here (and yes, he’s African American – probably just gave it away)…

    We know that too many young men in our community continue to make bad choices. Growing up, I made a few myself. And I have to confess, sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down. But one of the things you’ve learned over the last four years is that there’s no longer any room for excuses. I understand that there’s a common fraternity creed here at Morehouse: ‘excuses are tools of the incompetent, used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothingness.’ We’ve got no time for excuses – not because the bitter legacies of slavery and segregation have vanished entirely; they haven’t. Not because racism and discrimination no longer exist; that’s still out there. It’s just that in today’s hyperconnected, hypercompetitive world, with a billion young people from China and India and Brazil entering the global workforce alongside you, nobody is going to give you anything you haven’t earned. And whatever hardships you may experience because of your race, they pale in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured – and overcame.

    “Be a good role model and set a good example for that young brother coming up. If you know someone who isn’t on point, go back and bring that brother along. The brothers who have been left behind – who haven’t had the same opportunities we have – they need to hear from us. We’ve got to be in the barbershops with them, at church with them, spending time and energy and presence helping pull them up, exposing them to new opportunities, and supporting their dreams.


    And yes, it was this guy (and by the way, Mr. President, on an unrelated but much more urgent matter, please read this).

    But of course, talking down to others and implying (or even saying outright) that they are somehow immoral or inferior, as Thomas does here about Hollywood and Washington politicians overall, is definitely taking a page, as it were, out of the movement conservative playbook.


    Which, more than anyone else, was written by this guy.

    Update: And this generates a sigh of relief on Syria, by the way – how much do you want to bet that, had Number 43 still been in charge, bombs would be dropping all over the place with scores dead and unaccounted for (and legitimate this time) WMDs all over the Middle East, threats of terrorism would be erupting from all over the region, and the demented child-king in An Oval Office would have sneered at the world, saying, “Are you with us or are you against us?” (with families of military members anxious over which God-forsaken location on earth their loved ones would be sent this time).


  • Wednesday Mashup (5/1/13)

    May 1, 2013
  • Let’s start with a Bucks County item, and we need to take a brief trip back in time first.

    As noted here from last month, the Pennsbury Education Association (the union representing the Pennsbury school district employees) requested that the arbiter involved in the negotiations with the PEA and the school board not release the latest proposal figures in the ongoing negotiations.

    Because…

    Revised salary demands from the Pennsbury Education Association were posted on the district’s website…and that has union officials up in arms.

    The figures are part of a report for a state-appointed fact-finder to consider in April, said PEA spokeswoman Lucy Walter.

    “They should have remained confidential so that (fact-finder Lawrence) Coburn could do his work without external interference,” Walter said Wednesday night. “It is a shame that the Pennsbury Board of (School) Directors are so afraid of a fact-finding process that they would seek to sabotage it before it begins.”

    The teachers union asked for the fact-finder March 19 to try to break the long-standing labor dispute with the Pennsbury school board.

    So the PEA asks the fact finder to try and resolve the dispute, which of course the Pennsbury school board didn’t do. And to compound the problem, the board violates the confidentiality of the negotiations.

    So now you’re caught up for this item from a couple of days ago, which tells us the following…

    A fact-finder recommends no pay raises for the first three years of a five-year deal between Pennsbury and its teachers union and raises of less than 1 percent for some teachers the other two years.

    The 20-page recommendation by Lawrence Coburn, the state-appointed fact-finder, aims to end the long-running contract impasse between the district’s school board and the Pennsbury Education Association. He issued the report to the two sides on Monday.

    So basically, the school board refuses to take the initiative and get a mediator, then, when the PEA actually gets that done (and it looks like they’re going to get a “haircut” for their trouble), the board violates the spirit of the negotiations by posting the full fact-finder report online.

    If you guessed that this is another Simon Campbell production, then you win a complimentary “Don’t Tread On Me” decal tattooed on your forehead…

    Campbell defended his posting of the fact-finder report in a press release issued Tuesday morning.

    “This unelected, unaccountable government bureaucrat has no authority to tell any elected official that he or she must not discuss the expenditure of public money with the public prior to casting a contract vote on May 9, 2013,” he said.

    Campbell added in the release: “My personal counsel stands ready to file suit in federal court against opinion-finder Coburn, the unelected, unaccountable regulatory body known as the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, and the teachers union if any such persons believe they have authority that supersedes the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

    Gee, just a bit of a dog whistle to the Teahadists, wouldn’t you say?…

    Board President Allan Weisel, on behalf of the entire governing body, responded to Campbell’s actions.

    “(The board) disavows and regrets the release of the attorney-client privileged communication, confidential district documents and the fact-finder’s report,” Weisel said in a statement posted on Pennsbury’s website. “This release was the action of an individual board member. The school board is committed to abiding by the rules and regulations of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board in this matter.”

    And in a related matter, this Guest Opinion in today’s Courier Times tells us the following…

    PTO President Amy Waters recently wrote Campbell an email detailing some concerns Edgewood parents have with the changes proposed at their school. He replied with vitriol and condescension, vowing to oppose the PTO’s suggestions simply because the group was too “good at generating noise.” Campbell sounded more like a playground bully rather than a thoughtful leader when he told Waters: “The more aggressive you are in seeking self-interest, the less likely you are to influence me.”

    Campbell has minimized the worries faced by the families who will be required to endure these significant changes. “I have moved several times with my family, including from Switzerland to place a second grader and kindergartner in Pennsbury while in temporary housing,” Campbell wrote. “They survived. We didn’t make a big song and dance about it. We just got on with it.”

    This is no time for superior attitudes or personal attacks. Parents are upset, and rightly so. We need the Pennsbury School Board to approach this difficult problem with a more reasoned, empathetic approach. Simon Campbell should apologize to the Edgewood parents and every other family that will be affected by this redistricting plan. And I hope everybody in the Pennsbury School District will go to the polls on May 21, Primary Election Day, to bring about some much-needed change on the Pennsbury School Board.

    (Full disclosure: I know the author of this fine column and her family…great people.)

    Not that I’m some kind of a genius prognosticator by any means, but I told you here that stuff like this would happen when Campbell and his minions took over the Pennsbury school board (here – last bullet).

    Simon wants a strike, people. And the way things are going, he may very well get it.

    Update 5/10/13: And this is another Campbell disgrace.

  • Moving on to foreign policy stuff, I should bring you this item from Pulitzer Prize-winning (ugh) columnist Bret Stephens of the Murdoch Street Journal here (on the subject of Obama, Syria, and our “friends” in Israel, with Stephens imagining that Number 44 will do absolutely nothing)…

    …As the Assad regime realizes it can use these weapons without international penalty, it will unleash them again. Sooner or later it will figure out that the more widely it uses them, the quicker it can kill enemies at home and deter enemies abroad. A twofer. The administration will go from arguing that it’s too soon to intervene in Syria, to arguing that it’s too late.

    What Israel gets from this is a chemical-weapons free-fire zone on its Syrian border, along with the growing likelihood that the weapons will reach Hezbollah’s hands along its Lebanese border. On the plus side, Israel also gets an arms deal from the administration. But the deal consists of selling Israel stuff it already has or doesn’t particularly need, like aerial tankers and V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft, while withholding stuff it doesn’t have and dearly needs, like large bunker-busters and the means of delivering them.

    Umm, I hate to break the news to Stephens, but as noted here from September 2011…

    Newsweek is reporting that Israel has received 55 US-made GBU-28 bunker-busting bombs, citing it as evidence that the US-Israeli military relationship is deeper than ever, despite the bad chemistry between Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu. The other fruit of that relationship, the journalist Eli Lake reports, is an intriguing cooperative venture between Israel and some of its Arab neighbours to set up a radar array to give early warning of an impending Iranian missile attack.

    But of course, such wankery on Obama just comes with the territory as far as Stephens is concerned, as noted here.

  • gwb_13-george-w-bush

  • Finally for today, I give you the following from Fred Barnes at The Weakly Standard (here…a little late with this bit of Dubya revisionism, I realize)…

    Bush and Obama are both polarizing figures, but for different reasons. Bush’s policies, particularly on Iraq and terrorism, divided Republicans and Democrats sharply. But Obama goes a step further, constantly slamming Republicans and impugning their motives. Obama personally polarizes. Bush didn’t attack Democrats from the White House.

    Truly people, it is to laugh. To begin, I give you this from November 2007…

    WASHINGTON – With Congress and the White House engaged in a long-running feud over war funds, President George W. Bush criticized Democrats on Saturday for holding up money he requested for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

    Bush is seeking $196 billion for the wars for the fiscal year beginning October 1. Democrats who control Congress want to attach a troop pullout plan to the funding bill for the war but lack enough votes to pass the measure in the Senate.

    The White House has warned that Bush would veto any bill with such conditions.

    In his weekly radio address, Bush said Congress was “failing to meet its responsibilities to our troops.”

    “For months, Congress has delayed action on supplemental war funding because some in Congress want to make a political statement about the war,” he said, criticizing Democrats for leaving for their Thanksgiving break without approving the war funds.

    A bill passed this week by the House of Representatives would have given Bush about a quarter of the $196 billion he wants for the wars while setting a goal that all U.S. combat soldiers withdraw from Iraq by December 15, 2008.

    Republicans stopped the measure in the Senate.

    And this from February ’08…

    …Mr. Bush reserved his harshest comments for Mr. Obama’s recent statement that he would be willing to meet the new leader of Cuba, Raúl Castro, “without preconditions.” Mr. Obama has made reviving American diplomacy a centerpiece of his foreign policy agenda, saying he believes it is “important for the United States not just to talk to its friends but also to talk to its enemies.”

    But Mr. Bush has refused to meet with foreign adversaries like Kim Jong-il of North Korea and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. And at the news conference, he let loose with a spirited monologue when asked what would be lost by doing so.

    “What’s lost by embracing a tyrant who puts his people in prison because of their political beliefs?” Mr. Bush said in reference to Mr. Castro, his voice growing louder as he paced about behind the lectern. “What’s lost is it will send the wrong message. It will send a discouraging message to those who wonder whether America will continue to work for the freedom of prisoners.”

    Mr. Bush went on: “I’m not suggesting there’s never a time to talk, but I’m suggesting now is not the time — not to talk with Raúl Castro. He’s nothing more than an extension of what his brother did, which was to ruin an island, and imprison people because of their beliefs.”

    And this from May of that year…

    In a lengthy speech intended to promote the strong alliance between the United States and Israel, the president invoked the emotionally volatile imagery of World War II to make the case that talking to extremists was no different than appeasing Hitler and the Nazis.

    “Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along,” Mr. Bush said. “We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: “Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.” We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.”

    The Obama campaign issued an angry response to Mr. Bush’s statement. In an e-mail statement to reporters, the senator denounced Mr. Bush for using the 60th anniversary of Israel to “launch a false political attack,” adding, “George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists, and the president’s extraordinary politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people or our stalwart ally Israel.”

    And here is another instance in which Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History criticized Democrats as Nazi appeasers, or something, on the matter of terrorism, which is funny when you realize on whose watch Osama bin Laden was killed and on whose watch OBL got away (one of the many good reasons to see Dubya leave is that he took that idiotic, baiting language with him).

    And by the way, Bush actually said this in February 2004 (too artful, courtesy of his head speechwriter and now WaPo pundit Michael Gerson, to attack Dems by name, but everybody knew who he and Dubya were talking about – the reception was hosted by The Mittster, by the way)…

    Some of our opponents are skeptical that the war on terror is really a war at all. They view terrorism more as a crime — a problem to be solved with law enforcement and indictments. Our nation followed that approach after the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993. The matter was handled in the courts, and thought to be settled. But the terrorists were still training in Afghanistan, plotting in other nations, and drawing up more ambitious plans. After the chaos and carnage of September the 11th, it is not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers.

    …and this may be the ultimate “white is black, up is down” quote…

    It’s the President’s job to confront problems, not to pass them on to future Presidents and future generations.

    I rest my case.


  • Wednesday Mashup (1/16/13)

    January 16, 2013
  • This post at The Hill tells us the following…

    In his op-ed of January 9 (“NLRB Targets secret ballot and private employee information”) Fred Wszolek of the right-wing Workplace Fairness Institute claims that, for the past year, the labor board has “focused almost exclusively on rewarding union bosses with decisions that hurt workers and small businesses.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

    In reality, far-right obstructionism from the GOP Congress and anti-union organizations such as the Workplace Fairness Institute has undermined the board’s efforts to protect workers’ rights and restore a modicum of balance to our labor policy.

    Let’s examine the real record of the past two years:

    As Wszolek states, the board has introduced a new rule, supported by a clear majority of its members, to eliminate unnecessary litigation and deliberate delay before employees get to vote in union certification elections. Academic research demonstrates that employers often use delay as a strategy to undermine employees’ free choice. One large “union avoidance” law firm advises employers that “time is on your side” when it comes to (National Labor Relations Board) NLRB elections – the longer employers delay an election, the longer that employees are subjected to an aggressive anti-union campaign and the less likely that they will vote for unionization.

    Instead of permitting this fair and commonsense change to take effect, however, the GOP Congress and anti-union organizations have adopted every conceivable political and legal maneuver to scuttle the new rule. As a result, American workers are still being denied the opportunity for a timely vote.

    And for other “lowlights” on the right-wing “war on workers” in this country, I give you the following:

  • This tells us how Michigan and Repug Governor Rick Snyder snuck “right to work” legislation through the state house without any hearings or debate (a six-day legislative process undid 70 years of worker protections).
  • U.S. House Repugs blocked the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) from implementing new limits on coal dust — a pollutant contributing to a steep rise in cases of black lung among U.S. coal miners (here).
  • This tells us that, without the Repugs’ attack on public sector workers (to say nothing of actually passing the American Jobs Act), unemployment would probably be around 6 percent by now.
  • This tells us how Boehner, Cantor and their pals oppose a jobs bill for veterans (some legislation in this country actually used to pass without all of this nonsense; this is an example).
  • All of these developments by the U.S. House in particular make this totally predictable, by the way.

  • Next, the right wing wouldn’t be doing what they do best unless they were demonizing those less fortunate than they are, as noted here in another attack on Head Start

    Head Start is an $8 billion per year federal preschool program, designed to improve the kindergarten readiness of low-income children. Since its inception in1965, taxpayers have spent more than $180 billion on the program.

    But HHS’ latest Head Start Impact Study found taxpayers aren’t getting a good return on this “investment.” According to the congressionally-mandated report, Head Start has little to no impact on cognitive, social-emotional, health, or parenting practices of its participants. In fact, on a few measures, access to the program actually produced negative effects.

    The HHS’ scientifically-rigorous study tracked 5,000 children who were randomly assigned to either a group receiving Head Start services or a group that did not participate in Head Start. It followed their progression from ages three or four through the end of third grade. The third-grade evaluation is a continuation to HHS’ first-grade study, which followed children through the end of first grade.

    The first-grade evaluation found that any benefits the children may have accrued while in the Head Start program had dissipated by the time they reached first grade.

    Now I am definitely not an expert in education or statistics, but I thought it best to try and make sense of the report that Lindsey Burke of The Heritage Foundation is referencing (from here) to try and verify her claims. And it is true that the study indicated that the effects of math instruction dissipated somewhat once the 3 and 4-year-olds left Head Start and enrolled in public school. However, as far as I’m concerned, that begs the following question: how would the kids have fared if they had received no Head Start instruction at all?

    Besides, the report also tells us the following:

    At the end of the Head Start year, there was strong evidence that the Head Start group demonstrated better skills on the following six child outcomes related to children’s language and literacy development: (1) Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT) (vocabulary); (2) Woodcock-Johnson III (WJIII) Letter-Word Identification; (3) WJIII Spelling; (4) WJIII Pre-Academic Skills; (5) Color Identification; and (6) Letter Naming.

    Parents of children in the Head Start group reported that their children had greater emerging literacy skills at the end of Head Start than did parents of children in the control group.

    And as far as “cognitive” impacts go (also from the report)…

    At the end of 3rd grade, the most striking sustained subgroup finding was related to children from high risk households. For this subgroup, children in the 3-year old cohort demonstrated sustained cognitive impacts across all the years from pre-K through 3rd grade. At the end of 3rd grade, the Head Start children from high risk households showed favorable impacts on the ECLS-K Reading Assessment, the WJIII Letter-Word Identification, and the teacher-reported reading/language arts skills. This was in contrast to the impacts for children in lower and moderate risk households, for whom there were no impacts.

    Oh, and for the record, someone from the American Enterprise Institute also lambasted Head Start in similar terms over a 1998 study here. And as noted here (third bullet), Joe Klein engaged in some typical sock puppetry over Head Start as well, citing an unnamed Obama Administration official who called Head Start a “jobs program” (if this person truly believes that, then he/she should have had the intestinal fortitude to go on the record). And as noted here from about two years ago…

    [T]he Frederick County, Maryland, Board of County Commissioners voted to end the county’s contribution to its Head Start program, cutting overall funding for the program by more than 50 percent. Two of the Republican officials justified their decision to cut Head Start — which provides early childhood education to the children of low-income parents — by saying that women should really be married and home with their kids, thus rendering the program unnecessary…

    Typical for a bunch of troglodytes, I guess (the point of Head Start isn’t to turn poor kids into geniuses, but to give them help so they can compete with children who have better means than they do…and if they somehow do become geniuses, all the better).

  • Further, in case anyone was wondering what former Iraq war cheerleader Michael O’Hanlon was up to, wonder no more (here, in a column in which he basically praises outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton)…

    It is the president, and not Clinton, who bears considerable responsibility for at least two mistakes in the region. Obama raised hopes that his presidency could lead to a better rapport with Iran — hopes dashed by the stolen 2009 Iranian elections. He also sought to get Israel to freeze settlement activity as a precondition for peace talks. That idea was reasonably motivated, but ineffective.

    I must, however, acknowledge Clinton’s shortcomings in at least two policy debates. On Syria, we remain at a loss for what to do. The administration’s caution, while understandable, has become counterproductive in light of the tragedy there. A more forward-leaning U.S. support for the opposition looks warranted.

    Sooo…it’s Obama’s fault that Iran’s 2009 elections were a joke and “Bibi” isn’t going to stop building those damn settlements anytime soon. I guess Number 44 wasn’t “transformative” enough.

    O’Hanlon also tells us the following…

    This is not to say that Clinton was an historic secretary of state. Even an admirer, such as myself, must acknowledge that few big problems were solved on her watch, few big victories achieved. There was no equivalent of success in the Cold War, or Henry A. Kissinger’s work on President Richard M. Nixon’s opening to China. There is not likely to be a Clinton Doctrine to rival George Kennan’s containment policy, or the various doctrines associated with Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

    As noted here, George Kennan (who had more foreign policy knowledge in his fingernail than O’Hanlon has in his whole body) spent some of the last years of his life railing against Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History’s war of choice in Mesopotamia, which O’Hanlon supported at a time when he should have followed Kennan’s example instead (here).

  • Continuing, U.S. House Rep of Kansas Mike Pompeo (R-Koch) propagandizes as follows (here, courtesy of “Tiger Beat On The Potomac” as Esquire’s Charles Pierce calls Politico– funny)…

    …energy prices, most particularly natural gas prices, will not be materially affected by exports at levels that are likely to occur. Natural gas prices are projected to go up regardless of exports. They are already rising from less than $2.00 per million cubic feet earlier this year to $3.50 currently.

    As noted here, though…

    The glut of recent gas production was initially driven not by new technologies or discoveries, but by high prices. In the years from 2005 through 2008, as conventional gas supplies dried up due to depletion, prices for natural gas soared to $13 per million BTU (prices had been in $2 range during the 1990s). It was these high prices that provided an incentive for using expensive technology to drill problematic reservoirs. Companies flocked to the Haynesville shale formation in Texas, bought up mineral rights, and drilled thousands of wells in short order. High per-well decline rates and high production costs were hidden behind a torrent of production—and hype. With new supplies coming on line quickly, gas prices fell below $3 MBTU, less than the actual cost of production in most cases.

    So it sounds basically like the natural gas “bubble” has deflated somewhat and Pompeo is trying to re-inflate it (Gosh, you mean we’re set up for another “bubble to bust” cycle? Color me shocked!).

    This about par for the course with Pompeo…

  • As noted here, he called global warming graduate school-level internships “radical,” even though they were developed under Number 43, not President Hopey Changey.
  • He also opposed tax breaks/subsidies for wind energy companies, even though he has never had a problem with same for Big Oil (here – by the way, as noted here, this country is on a path to energy self-sufficiency partly as a result of production of biofuels).
  • In a non-energy development, he compared Obama Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain here (see, Clapper had what I guess Pompeo would call the temerity to say that Iran hadn’t decided whether or not they want to build a nuke, an assessment shared by our “friends” in Israel).
  • And as noted here, Pompeo is one of the Repugs leading the loudest charge against the EPA and its supposed “job killing” agenda (when someone discovers an actual job that was actually killed by an actual EPA regulation enacted by this administration, let me know, OK?).
  • Pompeo also opposed the creation of a CPSC database that “would allow people to make informed decisions on product safety, having access to injury reports on things like toys, cribs, and strollers” here.
  • Lather, rinse, repeat (too easy I know, but I gotta say it)…

  • Finally, as noted here, the Obama Administration commendably faced up to the issue of guns today, with 23 executive orders and pending legislation that, unfortunately, faces a very real prospect of defeat (but for now, let’s think positive).

    Prior to that, though (as noted here),

    A Texas congressman vowed to try to impeach President Obama if he moves ahead with plans to control guns by executive order and onetime U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese says it is not far-fetched.

    Rep. Steve Stockman, a Republican from the Houston area, called Obama’s plans to skirt Congress and implement some controls administratively “an unconstitutional and unconscionable attack on the very founding principles of this republic.” He also threatened to defund the White House.

    “I will seek to thwart this action by any means necessary, including but not limited to eliminating funding for implementation, defunding the White House, and even filing articles of impeachment,” Stockman said.

    Meese, who was the nation’s top law enforcement officer in the Reagan administration, told Newsmax Stockman would have support for such a move – and a good case.

    “It would not be legal. It would not be constitutional,” Meese said. “And, indeed, if he tried to override the Second Amendment in any way, I believe it would be an impeachable offense.

    I think it’s hilarious for Fix Noise or anyone else in the wingnutosphere to obtain the supposed legal counsel of former Reaganite Ed Meese, of all people (I guess Alberto Gonzales was busy).

    As far as Stockman is concerned, Think Progress tells us the following here

    In his first House tenure, Stockman received criticism for his office’s handling of a letter that appeared to be evidence in the Oklahoma City bombings — a note his office was slow to deliver to the FBI and also sent to the National Rifle Association. He also wrote a controversial letter to the Department of Justice objecting to raids of anti-government “citizen militia” groups.

    Last week, Stockman proposed a repeal of all gun-free school zones, claiming that such laws have “placed our children in even greater danger.”

    Yep, don’t have to worry about Stockman’s wingnut bona fides, all right.

    As for Meese, it should be noted that his former boss, The Sainted Ronnie R (who, more and more, wouldn’t stand an electoral chance in his own party were he to run today), understood the need for common-sense gun laws, as noted here (along with the two who followed him in office, as noted here).

    And it’s really funny for a white-collar crook like Meese to give anyone a lecture in the law; as noted here

    Meese’s personal ethical problems stemmed from his involvement in the Wedtech scandal, when he was accused of various financial improprieties (i.e., not reporting lobbying income on his tax returns that, in all probability, would have come from Wedtech, a company that lobbied the Reagan Administration for a $32 million contract to make engines for the Army, despite the Army’s conclusion that Wedtech didn’t have the infrastructure or the capability to do the work). In his public capacity, Meese came under fire in November 1987 for his alleged role in the Iran-Contra affair; he failed to give President Reagan sound legal advice, did not investigate the scandal fully, and may have participated in a cover-up. Several days after this story broke in the press, 3,000 Federal prisoners who had arrived in the U.S. on the Mariel boatlifts from Cuba took 130 other inmates hostages in 2 prisons in protest of a diplomatic accord that would have deported them. (The contention is made) that the same character flaws which were apparent in Meese through the Wedtech and Iran-Contra investigations led to serious mismanagement of the prison riots. Progress toward a resolution of the riots occurred only when Meese began to lose authority as a negotiator.

    Yep, ol’ Eddie sure made a bee line to NSA headquarters when the Iran-Contra scandal broke to make sure the most incriminating documents were shredded the letter of the law was followed.

    In closing, I just want to point out another item from Think Progress; as noted here, the NRA ran an ad in opposition to Obama that mentioned the president and Michelle’s two daughters.

    Wow.

    Sopranos_5556530_Sm1
    In the words of Bill Maher referencing the Valerie Plame scandal, even the mob doesn’t go after your family.


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