Friday Mashup (3/15/13)

March 15, 2013
  • This story from The Hill tells us the following…

    The White House is playing defense over the decision to cancel tours at President Obama’s residence, the latest stumble for Obama in the messaging war with Republicans over the sequester.

    What total garbage…

    The reason the White House tours were cancelled, as noted here, was because of cutbacks to the Secret Service (the story tells us that the Obama White House is asking if the Secret Service could allow tours to resume for school groups). If the Secret Service isn’t able to both accommodate visitors and protect the President and the First Family because of budgetary reasons, then the tours should be cancelled.

    Of course, as far as the Repugs and their media acolytes are concerned, unemployed workers, children, mothers, and soldiers looking to enroll in the Army’s tuition assistance program aren’t really on their radar, as it were (as well as the thousands, and perhaps millions, of other Americans hurt by the sequester). But do something to shed a spotlight on their stupidity, and they’ll howl like the weasels that they truly are.

  • Next (and staying with The Hill), I give you this from Pope wannabe Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston (tough luck there)…

    (O’Malley) called on lawmakers Friday to exempt any employer who objects to birth control from having to meet the healthcare law’s mandate for providing the coverage to employees.

    O’Malley wrote that Rep. Diane Black’s (R-Tenn.) legislation preserves the “vitally important traditions of religious freedom and the right of conscience.”

    I’ve already pointed out that the Obama Administration allowed a “conscience” guideline in the health care law for certain religious organizations that didn’t want contraceptive services covered as noted here (see the ** notation at the bottom), so I don’t intend to revisit that “hobby horse” no matter how much O’Malley and his brethren want to ride it.

    Instead, I want to take a closer look at the U.S. House Repug behind this latest bit of “values voter” pandering (from the same state that gave us Marsha Blackburn)…

  • Here, Diane Black introduced legislation that basically bars government funding of Planned Parenthood, even though legislation of that type singling out a group is unconstitutional (like the Mike Johanns/ACORN stuff).
  • Here, she introduced legislation that would bar gays from adopting children (if a same-sex or LGBT couple wishes to take on the responsibilities of parenthood, I wish them luck).
  • Here, she said that “children with pre-existing conditions and chronic illnesses should not have to be covered under their parent’s plan by insurance companies. Her reasoning is that insurance companies would lose too much money” (I’ll give you a moment to do the same slow burn I did if you wish).
  • Oh, and based on this, Tennessee ranks 41st out of 50 states when it comes to teen birth rate, it ranks 42nd out of 50 states when it comes to teen pregnancy rate, and it also ranks 42nd out of 50 in public costs for births resulting from unintended pregnancies (1 is best among U.S. states, and 50 is worst; this is the most recent data I could find).

    That’s something a reasonably intelligent life form should consider before attacking an organization dedicated to the sexual health of women of all ages, to say nothing of the overall health of many of the constituents she allegedly represents (of course, since we’re talking about someone like Black, it is very likely that the description of “a reasonably intelligent life form” does not apply, and the word “allegedly” should be used as much as necessary when describing her notions of constituent service…oh, and when it comes to conservatives like Black yelling about “big gumint” spending – well, maybe she should take a look in the mirror).

  • Continuing, I give you “Pastor” Gerson of the WaPo here, trying to fire up the Jeb Bush bandwagon for 2016 (spare me)…

    Bush does not approach these issues as a moderate, or even as a Jack Kemp-like bleeding-heart conservative. “Expanding government to empower people? I haven’t been in favor of that. Forty percent of GDP [consumed by government] is the most I can take.” His primary focus is the reform of institutions, particularly the immigration system, public education and Medicare. “Government is mired in the 1970s,” he says, “with huge cost structures and poor outcomes. Every other institution has gone through a transformation. Government hasn’t.”

    As far as “being mired in the 1970s” is concerned, please take a look at the following graph (from here).

    Accumulated_Gross_Debt_031413
    As you can see, the green circle shows this country’s federal government debt during the ‘70s. The red circle shows our debt when Jeb’s brother inhabited An Oval Office. So basically, I wish we really were “mired in the 1970s,” because we’d be a lot better off.

    And I must tell you I got a hoot out of the typical convoluted “bleeding-heart conservative” language from Gerson on Jack Kemp, who was one of the “founding fathers” when it comes to Not Your Father’s GOP and their craven opposition to any tax increase whatsoever.

    This tells us, among other things, that Kemp also called John Kerry and Hillary Clinton “sad, hypocritical and pathetic” for supporting Ned Lamont in his successful Democratic senatorial primary bid in Connecticut in 2006 (Lamont being the anti-Iraq war candidate, as opposed to Holy Joe Lieberman); also, Kemp was considered “unmanageable” as a candidate for ignoring the timers on his speeches, refusing to call contributors, and refusing also to practice for debates.

    Returning to Jeb, this tells us how he flip-flopped on immigration, said Obama “needed a spanking” (so professional) here, and, while he is apparently wooing voters of one skin color now, this tells us how he disenfranchised voters of another skin color in 2004.

    Jeb also said that Texas might “go blue” here (dare I dream?). And if you want to revisit Jeb’s role in the Terri Schiavo fiasco from 2005, click here.

  • On we go – this tells us the following…

    A leading GOP critic of the White House’s management of offshore drilling wants to know more about an Interior Department unit tasked with tackling corruption.

    House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said many operational and personnel specifics regarding the Interior Department’s Investigations and Review Unit (IRU) remain hazy, according to a letter first obtained by the Houston Chronicle.

    Established in 2010 and now part of the department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), the unit is charged with stomping out any wrongdoing at firms drilling offshore, the federal officials overseeing them and the relationships between the two.

    “Questions remain about whether the IRU has been allowed to operate as a law enforcement program, reporting only to the BSEE Director and without sufficient public scrutiny and oversight from the Department and Congress,” Hastings said in a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

    In response, I give you this from two years ago…

    The House Natural Resources Committee chairman and his staff wanted to keep the details of his three offshore drilling measures off-limits, even to other Republicans on the committee, so they decided to keep emails to a minimum.

    Hastings’s staff discussed the bills largely through face-to-face conversations to prevent emails from being leaked, a spokesman said.

    […]

    Hastings also held a closed-door, invitation-only meeting with top energy lobbyists, including representatives from Chevron, Patton Boggs and about a dozen others.

    I’m not sure how the Repugs could have chosen someone more hostile to the environment and friendly to business interests, particularly in Washington State, than Hastings; as noted here, Hastings scored just about the lowest possible environmental rating he could from the League of Conservation Voters.

    Hastings assumed the chair of the House Natural Resources Committee in 2010. So the next time you see a teabagger, make sure you thank him (or her) for Hastings, someone who probably has not a clue as to the meaning of the words “environmental stewardship.”

    Update 3/26/13: Hastings is clueless yet again, as noted here, though he does manage to effectively regurgitate GOP talking points.

  • Further (and keeping with the Teahadists), I give you the following from here

    Medicaid is first a moral issue, not an economic one. The poorest and the sickest among us deserve better than a crass political debate over the potential economic windfall Pennsylvania may receive if our state takes federal dollars to expand Medicaid.

    Instead, the debate should focus on the health and dignity of low-income individuals who are relying on Medicaid, or soon will, and how the system is failing to serve our most vulnerable.

    The Medicaid system’s failure is so broad that Forbes Magazine called it a “humanitarian crisis” and a scandal bigger than Bernie Madoff’s investment schemes and the Wall Street bailouts. Gov. Corbett was right to say no to expanding it.

    (Don’t worry, I’ll stop. I don’t want to be responsible for killing more brain cells.)

    If you guessed that the author of this nonsense is Jennifer Stefano of Americans for Prosperity, then you win a free trifold hat, a copy of Dinesh D’Souza’s latest anti-Obama screed, and a poster with Number 44’s face partly morphed into that of Adolf Hitler.

    I can’t think of a word for Stefano’s gall to quite rightly claim that funding Medicaid (I think that’s what she’s talking about) is “first a moral issue,” then turn around and call it a failure (judging from that, Stefano is apparently fine with this). Also, this tells us that funding Medicaid is not only the right thing to do to provide for the poorest residents of our beloved commonwealth, but it also creates jobs (yeah, jobsremember them?).

    This is par for the proverbial course when discussing Stefano, though; as noted here, she claimed, among other things, that the 62 million people who voted to re-elect President Obama last year basically were supporting “some weird ideological agenda,” which presumably includes the Affordable Care Act, which the majority of this country no longer wishes to fight about as noted here (I guess one person’s “weird ideological agenda” is another person’s “oh my love of freaking God, can’t we FINALLY STOP FIGHTING OVER THIS AND TRY TO WORK TOGETHER AND SOLVE OUR PROBLEMS FOR A CHANGE???” epiphany). She also claimed that anyone in the “Occupy” movement wanted to “defecate on the flag” here (all class).

    Oh, and as noted here (fourth bullet), Stefano is perpetually angry at Mikey the Beloved for not passing some Teahadist litmus test, or something. Of course, if Jen wanted to put her money where her proverbial mouth was, she would actually go ahead and “primary” him.

    Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen, though; it apparently benefits Stefano more to be a wingnut celebrity than to engage in the often hard, messy work of an actual political campaign.

  • And speaking of wingnut celebrities, it looks like Pat Boone is back again trying to generate “Drudge bait,” calling Number 44 a “Marxist” here.

    This is typical for Boone, a frequent contributor to World Nut Daily who said here that former Obama nominee for “safe schools czar” Kevin Jennings wanted to erase “taboos against sexual aberrance, possibly including pedophilia.” Boone also said here that the “varmints” in the White House should be “gassed” (figuratively, of course…we also learn about something called “tenting” from Boone in the same column), and he claimed here that Obama informed the “Muslim world” that this country “is no longer a Christian nation.”

    Pat Boone made a name for himself by covering 1950s-era rock n’ roll hits of black artists, including Fats Domino, Little Richard, and Ivory Joe Hunter. Yes, he aided the early career of Elvis Presley and helped to establish this developing new music genre, but he also made a nice, comfortable living for himself from other people’s work. And I guess that’s about what you would expect from a typical grifter, isn’t it?

    2260108417_57c8395ed2

  • Finally, I have to say that, as fed up as I am about the wingnut umbrage over Obama and the White House tours as I noted earlier…well, you can times that by about three when it comes to the supposedly “racist” tweet from Progress Kentucky about Elaine Chao, wife of Senate Repug Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (here).

    So the “tweet” points out that Chao has McConnell’s “ear” and that might explain why “your job” may have moved to China. And the fact that Chao is of Asian ancestry supposedly makes that “racist.”

    To begin, I should note that, in my lifetime, Elaine Chao was the absolutely worst Secretary of Labor that I have ever seen (the only Bushco cabinet official to “serve” through both terms of the administration); jobs were indeed offshored to China during her tenure as noted here.

    It should also be noted that H-1B visa fraud increased 27 percent on her watch (here), and this tells us how Bushco, with Chao’s consent of course, sponsored conferences for companies to learn the benefits of offshoring (including avoiding paying taxes) and supported new tax breaks for companies that did the same. Also, this tells us about McConnell’s work for Communist China and (probably) James Chao, Elaine’s father.

    Oh, and the Daily Kos post about her father also reminds us that Chao said the following:

    You could lose your job to a foreign worker — not because he’s cheaper but because he has better workplace skills and discipline. That’s the message Labor Secretary Elaine Chao hears from U.S. executives who are worried about America’s competitive future. While losses are low thus far — one study estimates that only 280,000 jobs in the service industry out of 115 million are outsourced each year — that could change. Beyond the cheaper cost of labor, U.S. employers say that many workers abroad simply have a better attitude toward work. “American employees must be punctual, dress appropriately and have good personal hygiene,” says Chao. “They need anger-management and conflict-resolution skills, and they have to be able to accept direction. Too many young people bristle when a supervisor asks them to do something.”

    As for our job future, Chao notes that most of the fastest-growing jobs today are in industries requiring advanced knowledge and skills and are “very high or high wage.” But critics say we’re not doing enough for those without a higher education. “Today, only 30% of the workforce has four years of college,” says Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute. “Instead of factory slots, there are slots for security guards and food-prep workers.”

    So Chao thinks American workers smell bad, have lousy attitudes, and need to dress better (gee, maybe that’s because we’re not all indentured servants as Chao and her puppet masters would have us, and God willing never will be…kind of like the way many workers are in, say, China?).

    I want to emphasize that I’m not a fan of racial slurs either. However, Chao is different; yes, she is of Asian ancestry, but she also held a job in which she did all she could to utterly screw over workers in this country, and sending their jobs to China was definitely part of that. And she has never apologized for that or for her insulting comments about American workers. And I don’t expect that she ever will.

    In our rush to be “PC,” let’s not lose sight of that, OK?

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    Friday Mashup Part 1 (9/4/09)

    September 4, 2009

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  • Zachary Roth at TPM Muckraker brings us the following today…

    The fallout from Mark Sanford’s Argentinian romance is getting increasingly nasty.

    Yesterday, State Senator Jake Knotts, a Republican but a committed Sanford foe, sent a letter to fellow lawmakers, in which he accused unnamed supporters of the bed-hopping chief exec of planting a rumor that Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer — who would become governor if Sanford steps down — is gay.

    So what exactly did Knotts have to say in Bauer’s defense?

    “Ain’t a homosexual bone in his body. That boy is a good boy. It’s a just an attempt to prevent Andre from become governor.”

    Of course, heaven forbid that Bauer actually had “a homosexual bone” in his body. In that event, I suppose Bauer would automatically plummet in the eyes of residents of the Palmetto State (below Sanford, of course) and no longer be “a good boy.”

    Oh, and please tell us when Opie and Aunt Bee return from shopping for a hickory switch and a piece of gingham from the “Piggly Wiggly” in Mount Pilot, OK, Mr. Knotts (any relation to Don)?

  • peril

  • And staying below that Mason-Dixon Line, I give you the following from Tennessee Repug U.S. House Rep Marsha Blackburn (here)…

    President Obama made a decision very early in the health care debate that doomed the process to failure. He decided to let Congress write the proposed bills, with very little input from the White House. Then he made another decision that just added to the problem. He decided that he wanted health care reform passed before Congress left for the August recess.

    Her piece at The Hill’s Congress blog is chock full of this type of unsubstantiated misinformation that I won’t dignify any further. Instead, I’ll present the following from here (I found this from the site’s interactive U.S. map)…

    How Health Insurance Reform will Benefit Tennessee

    LOWER COSTS FOR RESIDENTS OF TENNESSEE

    • Ending the Hidden Tax – Saving You Money: Right now, providers in Tennessee lose over $1.2 billion in bad debt which often gets passed along to families in the form of a hidden premium “tax”.1 Health insurance reform will tackle this financial burden by improving our health care system and covering the uninsured, allowing the 133 hospitals2 and the 18,560 physicians3 in Tennessee to (provide) better care for their patients.

    • Health Insurance Premium Relief: Premiums for residents of Tennessee have risen 77% since 2000.4 Through health insurance reform, 817,500 to 937,800 middle class Tennessee residents will be eligible for premium credits to ease the burden of these high costs.5

    • Strengthening Small Businesses: 74,592 employers in Tennessee are small businesses.6 With tax credits and a health insurance exchange where they can shop for health plans, insurance coverage will become more affordable for them.

    • Reforms that Reduce Your Costs: Under health insurance reform, insurance companies will be prevented from placing annual or lifetime caps on the coverage you receive. Insurance companies will also have to abide by yearly limits on how much they can charge for out-of-pocket expenses, helping 32,900 households in Tennessee struggling under the burden of high health care expenses.7

    INCREASE YOUR CHOICES: PROTECTING WHAT WORKS AND FIXING WHAT’S BROKEN

    • Insurance Stability and Security: Health insurance reform will strengthen our system of employer-based health insurance, with an additional 56,400 people in Tennessee potentially getting insurance through their work.8 Health insurance reform will also ensure that you will always have guaranteed choices of quality, affordable health insurance if you lose your job, switch jobs, move or get sick.

    • Eliminating Discrimination for Pre-Existing Conditions, Health Status or Gender: 10% of people in Tennessee have diabetes9, and 34% have high blood pressure10 – two conditions that insurance companies could use as a reason to deny you health insurance. Health insurance reform will prevent insurance companies from denying coverage based on your health, and it will end discrimination that charges you more if you’re sick or a woman.

    • One-Stop Shopping – Putting Families in Charge: With the new health insurance exchange, you can easily and simply compare insurance prices and health plans and decide which quality affordable option is right for you and your family. These proposals will help the 845,700 residents of Tennessee who currently do not have health insurance to obtain needed coverage, and it will also help the 306,700 Tennessee residents who currently purchase insurance in the individual insurance market.11

    • Guaranteeing Choices: The largest health insurer in Tennessee holds 45% of the market, which limits the choices that you have for finding coverage.12 With a competitive public insurance option, you will have more choices and increased competition that holds insurance companies accountable.

    ASSURE QUALITY, AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE FOR AMERICANS

    • Preventive Care for Better Health: 41% of Tennessee residents have not had a colorectal cancer screening, and 22% of women have not had a mammogram in the past 2 years.13 By requiring health plans to cover preventive services for everyone, investing in prevention and wellness, and promoting primary care, health insurance reform will work to create a system that prevents illness and disease instead of just treating it when it’s too late and costs more.

    • Improving Care for Children and Seniors: 21% of children in Tennessee have not visited a dentist in the past year,14and 30% of seniors did not receive a flu vaccine15. Health reform will ensure coverage for kids’ dental, vision, and hearing needs, and will promote quality coverage for America’s seniors, including recommended immunizations.

    Also, a poll from June commissioned by opponents of health care reform finds majority support for a public option across the country (I haven’t been able to find polling numbers for the entire state of Tennessee, though I know it’s favored in the district of “Bush Dog” Jim Cooper).

    I suppose, though, that this is about what you would expect from someone who said “we’re not going to cry ‘emergency’ every time we have a ‘Katrina’” (here), even though Blackburn supported the emergency Katrina appropriation all the same (sounds like the “blind squirrel finding the nut” again).

  • DanBush

  • Former Bushie (and Indiana governor) Mitch Daniels (left in the pic) opines as follows in the Murdoch Street Journal today (on the matter of states having to get their fiscal houses in order due to the recession) …

    …the political impulse to protect government largess leads many states to aggravate their dilemma. Already more than half have raised taxes, often on businesses, serving only to chase them and their tax payments away and into the open arms of states like Indiana. Our traffic flow of interested investors is as heavy as it was in 2007. Since January we have welcomed the consolidation of more than 30 firms that closed up shop elsewhere and chose us as the low-cost, enterprise-friendly environment among their current locations.

    Indiana was near bankruptcy five years ago but is relatively solvent today because we have spent the intervening years making hard choices. We have reformed state procurement, contracted out some jobs, cut costs, and relentlessly scrutinized expenditures in pushing for annual improvement in departments large and small. We’ve also reduced the number of state employees by some 5,000 from the 2004 level.

    In contrast to the national pattern, our per capita state spending has cut, on average, 1.4% each of the past five years. Indiana is now the sixth thriftiest state by this measure. And if we Hoosiers are realizing that we need to re-examine what we can afford to have our government do, what must they be thinking in Albany, Lansing or Trenton?

    Yep, typical Bushie…never misses an opportunity to score a political point or two against those baad “blue states” (even though Obama won Indiana last year).

    To me, this is a case of “right message, wrong messenger.” I’m not going to comment on what may or may not be working in Indiana, since I don’t know enough about the state to say anything. And fiscal prudence is always a good thing wherever you live.

    However, Brad DeLong tells us here of a moment when Daniels could have stood up to his White House pals and, as a result, probably relieved some of the burden we currently face (Daniels was Bushco’s OMB director at the time)…

    One of the threads of Ron Suskind’s The Price of Loyalty is that Mitch Daniels simply did not do his job as Bush’s OMB Director. The OMB Director is the principal–indeed, the only–voice inside the White House for fiscal prudence, for trying to ensure that the money the government spends is spent well and that the resources the government raises are adequate for the spending plans the White House evolves. While he was Bush OMB Director, Daniels simply did not do his job.

    Page 219:

    Mitch Daniels became agitated. He blurted out, “Well, yes, but if you can’t do the right thing when you’re at 85 percent approval, then when can you do the right thing? I think it’s time to say no.” Everyone looked with surprise at Daniels–he has a way of expressing what others are thinking but don’t say. Often, he’d find himself doubling back when he got an arched brow from Cheney or Rove…

    And page 296:

    The Commerce Secretary echoed much of what had been said…. As usual, not a real discussion, O’Neill thought as he looked over at [Mitch] Daniels…. He knew Daniels was focused on the perils of rising deficits, but it would take gumption to air those concerns in a room full of tax cut ideologues. “I think we need to balance concerns,” Daniels said…. “You need to be out front on the economy, but I am concerned that this package may not do it. The budget hole is getting deeper… we are projecting deficits all the way to the end of your second term.” From across the table came glares from the entire Bush political team. Daniels paused…. “Ummmm. On balance, then, I think we need to do a [tax cut] package… accelerate the rate cuts and the double taxation of dividends…” O’Neill looked with astonishment at Daniels… turn 180 degrees in midsentence…

    And Daniels was just as wrong here on pending cap-and-trade legislation, by the way.

  • fastfood_huge.52.263738

  • Finally, I give you the comedy stylings of Michael G. Franc and James Sherk of the National Review Online (here)…

    Why has teenage unemployment jumped so sharply? In part the deteriorating economy. But also because Congress voted to put teenagers out of work. The August employment report is the first after the minimum wage increase took effect at the end of July. Of course, that is not what Congress said it wanted to do when it raised the minimum from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour.

    But no matter what Congress sets the minimum wage at the true minimum wage is always zero. Employers do not have to hire workers, and they will not when hiring an additional worker brings in less money than that workers adds to the company. Consider an unskilled teenage worker whose labor increases a restaurant’s earnings by $7.00 an hour. The restaurant will pay up to $7.00 an hour to hire that worker. But when Congress raises the minimum wage to $7.25 that worker will lose his job. No restaurant will hire workers for a loss. Any business that did so would quickly go bankrupt. By raising the minimum wage Congress voted to lay off every worker who produces less than $7.25 an hour.

    I have no word on what formula these two pundits know of or came up with to compute the profit an employee generates for his or her employer and how that determines that person’s wage (sooo…then these two shouldn’t be paid the same amount if their online “hit” count goes down, for example?), but I believe this post from about a year ago debunks the rap that an increase in the minimum wage leads to greater unemployment…

    It ascribes a significant part of the problem of high teenage unemployment rates to high state minimum wages (or “maximum folly” according to the editorial). This claim disintegrates, however, under even the most cursory examination. Here’s why. Teenage unemployment rose from 13.1% to 17% between 2000 and 2004. According to the (Wall Street) Journal’s argument, the increases in teen unemployment should have been higher in states with higher minimum wages than in those with low minimum wages. What actually happened was the reverse: Teenage unemployment rose 3.4% in the high minimum wage states, compared to 4.2% in the others.

    So in response, I have a question to ask Franc and Sherk (assuming their line of reasoning is applied to themselves and they end up having to seek other employment)…

    Can I have fries with that?


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