Friday Mashup (11/15/13)

November 15, 2013
  • I’ve been a bit delinquent in linking to sites where you can provide assistance in some way to the victims of the horrific events in the Philippines recently, and I apologize for that:

    Here is a link to the Red Cross (blood donations, supplies, etc.).

    Here is a link to Oxfam America (financial contributions will assist with providing food, clean water, medicine, and shelter).

    Here is a link to World Vision (same as above).

  • Next (and turning to the kids in this country), this tells us that Dem U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, Dem U.S. House Rep George Miller and Repug U.S. House Rep Richard Hanna support the Strong Start for America’s Children Act – more follows…

    According to a draft, the bill would expand early childhood education from birth to age five over a decade. It would give states funding to expand preschool to all four-year-olds in low-income families who earn below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Line, or about $47,000 for a family of four, based on the number of children that would be served. States would also have to qualify by meeting quality standards and by already providing state-funded Kindergarten. The states would start out having to match 10 percent of the federal money and then increase that match to an equal share by the 10th year, although the match would be reduced for those that serve half or more of their eligible four-year-olds. If a state achieves universal access to preschool for four-year-olds, it could then start working on serving three-year-olds so long as that access remains for the older children.

    The bill doesn’t just address preschool, but also high-quality childcare for infants and young children. States could set aside 15 percent of the money for high-quality education and care for infants and toddlers. It would authorize a new partnership between Early Head Start and those who offer childcare to improve the quality of the care while changing the block grant that supports childcare so that it can raise the quality and ease eligibility. The Department of Health and Human Services would also convert Head Start programs that currently serve low-income four-year-olds into programs to serve three-year-olds and younger.

    The Think Progress post also tells us that the U.S. is 21st in the world when it comes to the percentage of GDP it spends on preschool, even though “the benefits of access to high-quality learning at a young age have been well documented,” as Think Progress points out.

    More on the bill can be found from here (a link to Congressman Miller’s web site).


    So what say you on this, Mikey the Beloved?

    Well, this links to the Education page of Fitzpatrick’s web site, where we learn that he supports tying student loan interest rates to the market, he also supports the Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act, which is commendable– and of course, NO LABELS NO LABELS NO LABELS BLAH BLAH BLAH.

    If he comes out in favor of the Miller/Hanna legislation, I’ll update this post accordingly.

  • Continuing, I give you the following from Doug Schoen of Fix Noise…

    It’s official: ObamaCare is a failure.

    Data released by the administration shows that only 100,000 Americans have signed up while the administration has been touting a 500,000-person enrollment goal for October.

    Reuters is reporting that ObamaCare has only reached three percent of its enrollment target for 2014 in 12 states.

    “Hold me accountable for the debacle. I am responsible,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a House committee. And while I appreciate Secretary Sebelius’s willingness to take responsibility, we’re past the point where blame and pointing fingers will do us any good.

    We need a fresh start with health care. Going back to square one is the only way we’re going to make any progress. We still have an opportunity, albeit a waning one, to make this right.

    (By the way, I apologize for not being able to link back to Fix Noise on this. For some reason, the page this appeared on is no longer valid. A real head-scratcher, that.)

    And all of this from an operation that has not shown an iota of objectivity on this issue (and Schoen is very definitely a part of that regime).

    I think that more context is needed on this matter, and Think Progress provides some here (I realize that I’m echoing a lot of what they’ve posted recently – I see a lot of other good sites, but I don’t see anyone else doing their type of reporting on this stuff).

    To me, the most important takeaway from Igor Volsky’s post is that the enrollment numbers for the Affordable Care Law reflect pretty much those of Commonwealth Care in 2007 (the coverage instituted in Massachusetts by then-Governor Willard Mitt Romney) and Medicare Part D under Dubya.

    (By the way, Schoen actually has a bit of a point in highlighting what President Clinton said about the Affordable Care Act numbers. I don’t mean that to second what Schoen says in any way, but only to respectfully add in response that The Big Dog should shut his trap on this, particularly since his commendable expansion of children’s health insurance in 1997 followed a similar enrollment pattern also.)

    It should also be noted from here that those in need of medical coverage still view the Affordable Care Law favorably, and as noted here, the Kaiser Family Foundation (the only people who should be trusted when it comes to measuring public response on this as far as I’m concerned) tells us that, based on their data, approval of health care reform is “inching upward,” and non-Republicans basically aren’t excited by all of the breathless “reporting” out there when it comes to web site glitches and what not.

    Oh, and just as a reminder, this tells us how much of a “Democrat” Doug Schoen really is.

  • Further (and sticking with the health care law), I give you this from The Hill…

    A House bill that would allow insurance companies the option of offering old healthcare plans is gaining dozens of co-sponsors ahead of a vote this week.

    Sixty-eight House members signed on to the bill Tuesday alone, giving the measure sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) a total of 156 co-sponsors.

    Nearly all of the sponsors so far are Republicans, but two Democrats have joined the Keep Your Health Plan Act: Reps. John Barrow (Ga.) and Mike McIntyre (N.C.). Both are top 2014 targets for the GOP; each Democrat represents a district easily won by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012.

    This is a really difficult issue, made so in no small part because of our utterly brain-dead corporate media which refuses to do its job of educating and informing us, though I admit this matter is pretty convoluted at times. So I, in my admittedly imperfect manner, will try to do so here.

    (And by the way, to prove my point, the news networks with initials for names could provide some historical context to similar legislation as Igor Volsky at Think Progress did previously. Short of that, they could also point out that it’s ridiculous to hold Obama responsible for the machinations of private insurers, though admittedly he was a bit mush-mouthed on the whole question of whether or not we would keep our health care plans or have to look for coverage on an exchange; one again, those who seek to undermine him have found some new, creative way to do so and give the majority of the country the old “middle finger raised on high” in the process.)

    To begin, this tells us that there are two competing bills out there when it comes to people keeping their health insurance coverage. The bill by Sen. Mary Landrieu, while imperfect, represents a workable “bridge,” I think, to help with the transition. However, the Upton bill supported by Barrow and McIntyre is yet another back-door attempt to undermine the law by making “grandfathered” coverage permanent (here).

    This is a typical move for Barrow and McIntyre, by the way; as noted here, they opposed the Affordable Care Law from the beginning (also noted here). And Barrow actually benefitted from campaign funds from the “U.S.” Chamber of Commerce in the 2010 election cycle, when 21 incumbent Dems were defeated in U.S. House races because our media fell in love with the racist-sign-and-funny-hat crowd and the Repugs claimed that they would be better at managing the economy (here).

    As for McIntyre, this “Democrat” voted with the Repugs here for that typically idiotic bill to prevent DHS from using taxpayer dollars to buy and stockpile ammunition until they provide a “comprehensive report” to Congress on its ammunition usage, purchase history and contracting practices (authored by Teahadist Mark Meadows of North Carolina, who, more than anyone else, is to blame for the government shutdown…he authored that letter to Obama saying he, and 79 of his playmates, would block a continuing resolution to keep the government going unless “Obamacare” was defunded – by the way, the DHS bill was a paean to the Teahadists who were worried that that danged li-bu-ruul Obama was going to use that agency to seize all of the ammunition instead of taking their guns away – yep, crazy is as crazy does).

    Oh, and speaking of the shut down, McIntyre was one of the U.S. House Dems who sponsored government “a la carte” during the shutdown, along with Barrow, on at least one related vote here (way to fold like card tables, people…maybe the reason why your seats are “weakly held” is because you lack the courage of what are supposed to be your convictions).

    And this tells us how Barrow and McIntyre voted to cut renewable energy funding (by the way, this Daily Kos post to me is shocking because Mikey the Beloved actually does something good here, and that is to support the Army Corps of Engineers in changing current guidance on how the federal government defines waters subject to the Clean Water Act, and yes, this is a good thing in this context…of course, Mikey probably knew the bill wouldn’t pass in this House, so it’s not as if he’ll ever have to pay a price for it, and can instead try to burnish some imaginary “centrist” cred here).

    Also, Barrow and McIntyre both voted in favor of H 368 Section 2 to defund the government, as noted here.

    I realize that, were we to lose John Barrow and Mike McIntyre, it would be a harder road for the Dems to eventually retake the House. But with votes like these, I cannot possibly imagine why we should spend any money whatsoever or contribute anything else to help them in their upcoming campaigns (and as usual, what Digby sez here – h/t Atrios).

  • Buckyballs

  • Finally, I came across an Op-Ed in the Murdoch Street Journal written by former Bushie Nancy Nord about the so-called “Buckyballs” case – I can’t link to it unless I subscribe (too funny), so I went to Nord’s blog instead to read more about it (here)…

    A number of manufacturers make small powerful magnet desk toys and manipulatives. Buckyballs had the largest share of that market. Even though Buckyballs were not intended for or primarily sold to children, when reports of ingestion started coming in, the company making them, Maxfield and Oberton, stepped up with an aggressive safety education program to warn against the danger of children swallowing powerful magnets.

    Even though that education program was fully discussed with and encouraged by the agency, the CPSC then demanded a recall and decided to sue the company when it disagreed with its demand—all before the safety education program could be fully put into place. A principle tenet of the agency’s case is that warnings were not sufficient to protect the public. Yet, the only evidence it has to support that contention is its speculative conclusions, since the aggressive safety campaign envisioned by the industry was prematurely shut down by the agency.

    “Aggressive safety campaign envisioned by the industry”? As noted here, Craig Zucker, the head of Maxfield and Oberton (the company that made Buckyballs) apparently had at least one opportunity to get this product off the market in 2010; despite that, he still wasn’t able, apparently, to market this product or package it in a way that protected kids, enough to prevent the choking and digestion problems like the ones encountered this year.

    And as I read more about this, I found out that this case has become sort of a lightning rod for the wingnuts, who of course perpetually hate any “big gumint regulation” of any kind (here, though I admit that there is a bit of a twist noted below)…

    Over the last three weeks, more than 2,200 people have placed orders for $10-to-$40 sets of magnetic stacking balls, rising to the call of a saucy and irreverent social media campaign against a government regulatory agency.

    The money from the sales of the so-called Liberty Balls goes to a legal-defense fund. At the crux of the battle is an arcane legal tussle that has caught the attention of a number of mainstream business organizations and free-market legal groups.

    It involves an effort by the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission to recall Buckyballs, sets of tiny, powerfully magnetic stacking balls that the magazines Rolling Stone and People once ranked on their hot products lists.

    Last year, the commission declared the balls a swallowing hazard to young children and filed an administrative action against the company that made the product, demanding it recall all Buckyballs, and a related product called Buckycubes, and refund consumers their money. The company, Maxfield & Oberton Holdings, challenged the action, saying labels on the packaging clearly warned that the product was unsafe for children.

    But the fuss now has less to do with safety. After Maxfield & Oberton went out of business last December, citing the financial toll of the recall battle, lawyers for the product safety agency took the highly unusual step of adding the chief executive of the dissolved firm, Craig Zucker, as a respondent in the recall action, arguing that he controlled the company’s activities. Mr. Zucker and his lawyers say the move could ultimately make him personally responsible for the estimated recall costs of $57 million.

    While the “responsible corporate officer” doctrine (also known as the Park doctrine) has been used frequently in criminal cases, allowing for prosecutions of individual company officers in cases asserting corporate wrongdoing, experts say its use is virtually unheard-of in an administrative action where no violations of law or regulations are claimed.

    So the reason why Zucker is manufacturing his so called “Liberty Balls” (akin to “Freedom Fries” or “Freedom Toast” from back in the day, apparently) is to raise money for his legal defense over what appears to be a highly unusual action by the CPSC, naming him as a respondent in the recall of his dangerous product.

    The Times also tells us the following…

    Conservative legal groups like Cause of Action, a nonprofit that targets what it considers governmental overreach, have been watching the proceedings with interest and weighing taking some action.

    “This really punishes entrepreneurship and establishes a bad precedent for businesses working to create products for consumers,” said Daniel Z. Epstein, the group’s executive director. “It undermines the business community’s ability to rely upon the corporate form.”

    Mr. Epstein once worked for a foundation run by Charles G. Koch, who, with his brother David, has funded numerous conservative and antigovernment or antiregulatory causes. He would not disclose the donors behind Cause of Action. The Washington Legal Foundation, which promotes pro-business and free-market positions, has weighed in with a background paper titled “C.P.S.C.’s Misuse of R.C.O. Doctrine Bodes Ill for C.E.O.’s and Consumers.”

    So of course the Koch Brothers have found a way to worm themselves into this mess.

    Anyone have any idea why the CPSC would do such a thing? I would guess that the following provides a hint (here)…

    The Consumer Product Safety Commission, stymied in attempts to get a manufacturer to foot the bill, persuaded several prominent retailers to voluntarily join the agency in a recall of Buckyballs, the super-magnet desk toys which have seriously damaged the intestines of children who swallow them.

    The CPSC sought the cooperation of retailers after the manufacturer of Buckyballs abruptly dissolved the company late last year. The agency tried unsuccessfully to get the former CEO of Buckyballs to pay for the recall, and has sued the corporate parent, Maxfield & Oberton, in an administrative complaint.

    To me, it sounds like the CPSC was actually being pretty damn vigilant, taking action to get a dangerous product off the market while the owner of that product apparently didn’t want to be bothered with aiding in that effort (and again, there had been a recall three years earlier, so Zucker should have been aware that there could still be a problem…and yes, I know we’re not really talking about a toy per se, but we’re still talking about something that is a danger to the public).

    And speaking of that, while we’re supposed to be preoccupied with shareholder return or possibly damaging this country’s entrepreneurial spirit or whatever, it might be a good idea to consider the damage these “Buckyballs” have caused (from here)…

    9 year old girl was playing with an antique/toy lamp that used buckyball magnets as the string to pull the light on, took some of the magnets and placed in her mouth, accidentally swallowed about 5-7 of them. Patient underwent multiple exposures to radiation via XRays, anesthesia, and an endoscopy in an attempt to retrieve them. Magnets were in small intestine by the time endoscopy was performed, required more XRays to follow magnets around the bowel. Fortunate for the child, they passed without incident.

    The doctor stated that her 2 years old patient swallow 62 rare earth magnets and suffered intestinal perforation. The doctor stated it’s believed that the incident happened while the child was playing with the magnets without supervision.

    The doctor stated that the 62 magnets were removed from his intestines and stomach. The child was currently admitted at the intensive care unit and will be in the hospital for approximately 5-7 days. The doctor stated that soon after his release from the hospital the child would have to follow up with the pediatric surgeon as well as with his regular pediatrician.

    Ingestion of 4 bucky ball magnets. Patient presented to the emergency department with abdominal pain and distension, decreased oral intake and vomiting. The magnets were removed from the colon endoscopically.

    Caller states that he is a physician and attended twelve year old boy who put thirty 5mm magnetic balls into his urethra and into his bladder.

    Physicians attempted to remove the Bucky balls using a cystoscope for greater than one hour but this was unsuccessful with only three being removed and a one and a half hour surgery was performed by cutting into his stomach to his bladder for removal of the remaining twenty seven balls.

    Child was in Yale New Haven Hospital overnight then returned home.

    Caller wanted to report this action so that CPSC would have knowledge of other ways that magnetic balls can be dangerous for young people.

    I actually found myself becoming enraged as I read about this, I have to admit; I know I’ve got a mile or two on the odometer, as the saying goes, but I can remember a time when we would say or do anything and spare no expense to protect our kids from danger of any kind, and the hell with how much somebody responsible for that danger has to pay or what punishment they have to undergo (I’ve got two words to say in response to the “punish(ing) entrepreneurship” crap, and they’re not Happy Birthday).

    And how utterly typical, by the way, for Nancy Nord to leap to Zucker’s defense.

    And that is because Nord was possibly the very worst head of the Consumer Products Safety Commission who has ever held the office (as I know I’ve said before, in addition to Iraq, 9/11, tilting the Supreme Court in favor of corporations into remote posterity and its other horrendous judicial appointments, Bushco’s worst legacy is the fact that they managed to install some of the very worst human beings imaginable as heads of federal agencies…see Norton, Gale; Kempthorne, Dirk; Chertoff, Michael; Brown, Michael; Doan, Lurita, Chao, Elaine, and Nord, along with too many others).

    As noted here

  • Nord blew off a hearing on defective toys because the hearing also would have included the testimony of child safety advocates (and Nord’s CPSC didn’t decide to test products until an incident was reported, and they negotiated every word of a recall alert with the manufacturer of a defective product).
  • Her CSPC was clearly understaffed and underfunded, where a “fox running the hen house” mentality ran rampant (oh, and she actually opposed a bill that would have increased the funding of her agency).
  • She also blew off pool safety alerts, and this tells you about Nord’s far-less-than-stellar response on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (or CPSIA) of 2008.
  • So go ahead and tell me how much the Consumer Products Safety Commission is supposedly guilty of regulatory overreach in the “Buckyballs” case, and how we’re unjustly attacking poor Craig Zucker, who apparently couldn’t be bothered to aid in the recent recall when it was found out just how dangerous his product really was.

    Actually, Zucker could do me a little favor if he wanted to (I’m sure he doesn’t), and I would take it easy on him from that point forward.

    He could actually pay a visit to the child who had to have his stomach cut open to his bladder to remove Zucker’s stinking product.


  • Friday Mashup (7/12/13)

    July 12, 2013
  • I give you the latest screeching from The Daily Tucker here

    Republicans on Capitol Hill are becoming frustrated with Democratic attempts to block legislation to reform the IRS with funding cuts and other punitive measures. Republicans insist that the IRS should be “punished,” while Democrats fear a new precedent that could lead to budget cuts in other agencies.

    “There’s fear that [the IRS scandal] is becoming politicized,” a Republican insider on Capitol Hill told The Daily Caller. “There’s hope that at least one of the House investigations will go somewhere, but there’s still doubt” that Democrats will manage to block IRS-related legislation.

    Wow, another Repug Party congressional fiasco becoming “politicized”! Fetch the smelling salts; I may faint!

    Actually, I think the appropriate response is this – tell me something in Washington that isn’t politicized. When we can’t even get a food stamp budget passed (as noted from here), then we’re truly in strange, uncharted waters, people.

    And I think an even more appropriate response is here, including the following:

    As part of their aversion to taxation, and the Internal Revenue Service, House Republicans are planning on slashing $3 billion from the IRS’s already pathetically underfunded budget, and besides just hating the concept of taxation, there are several likely reasons for starving one of the most critical departments in government. For one thing, Republicans have made no secret (that) underfunding the IRS is punitive for what they cite as “inappropriate actions” over the phony scandal when IRS employees performed their due diligence in scrutinizing political groups filing applications for 501(C)(3) “social welfare” tax exempt status to conceal dark money donors in political campaigns. In fact, slashing the IRS funding is part of a series of GOP bills to punish the IRS that includes withholding 10% of the agency’s enforcement budget until they stop investigating conservative political groups’ applications according to a so-called “taxpayer watchdog” group.

    Cutting the IRS budget, especially enforcement and collections, is starving the government of much needed revenue, especially when Republicans are in a debt and deficit cutting frenzy. In 2006 alone, the IRS was so pathetically underfunded, and understaffed, they left $385 billion in owed and uncollected taxes primarily from corporations and the rich. The Republicans’ deliberate underfunding serves more than just punishing the agency for doing its job policing phony “social welfare” applications and thwarting the Affordable Care Act’s implementation, they are letting their wealthy contributors off the hook for taxes they owe. Plus, as a value-added benefit, starving the government of funds is part and parcel of their oath to lobbyist Grover Norquist to assist him in cutting “government down to size where he can drown it in a bathtub.” What better way to underfund the government than neutering the agency responsible for executing House Republicans’ oath to “lay and collect taxes… to pay the debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States?”

    Yes, the so-called “Star Trek” spoof was idiotic (here), but trust me – I’ve worked in our glorious private sector long enough to see much worse examples of companies wasting their money in the name of “employee engagement.”

    Nobody likes to pay taxes, but if we’re going to have “nice things” at all, then that’s what we have to do. And as noted here, federal taxes remain at a record low level for middle-income families. That’s not the problem. This is.

    Trying to slam the IRS like this is nothing but a typically disingenuous way to try and score political points. Talk to me about how we’re going to try and address the rampant wage inequality in this country instead, or don’t waste my time.

  • Next, I give you the latest from the right-wing outrage factory (here)…

    Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) delivered the GOP’s weekly address (last) Saturday, hammering at Senate Democrats over last week’s increase in student loan rates.

    Jenkins drew upon Independence Day, highlighting the American belief of ensuring “our children are free to live a better life.” She said that Monday’s doubling of interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent went against that principle, urging Democrats to pass bipartisan reform.

    “Today these essentials of the American Dream are at risk,” Jenkins said. “Last week, I spoke with hundreds of college students who are concerned they won’t have the same opportunities their parents had. They find it hard to see beyond paying off their education, stretching to afford rent, and finding a job in this tough economy.”

    Back in late May, the House passed a bill that would switch the student loan rates system to a market-based platform, out of the hands of Congress. The Smarter Solutions for Students Act makes subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans reset every year, based on 10-year Treasury notes, plus 2.5 percent. Reuters noted in its May report that Senate Democrats were instead in favor of keeping rates of 3.4 percent for two additional years, and the White House was ready to veto the House plan on the premise that students would face uncertainty.

    So, just to recap: The Senate Dems favored keeping the Stafford student loan rate fixed at 3.4 percent, but the Senate Republicans (under the guise of the Orwellian-sounding Smarter Solutions for Students Act) favored having the loans reset upward every year. Everybody got that?

    In fact, U.S. Senate Democrat Elizabeth Warren had an even better idea (from here)…

    Last month, I introduced the Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act. The idea is simple: For one year, we should give students that same low 0.75% interest rate the big banks get.

    Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, have introduced legislation to keep interest rates at their current 3.4% level for two years. Neither is a long-term fix. Instead, both are designed to give us some breathing room to keep rates from doubling while we tackle the problem of rising college costs and a trillion dollars in student loan debt outstanding.

    (And to tell those idiots in the Senate what you think of them for voting against holding the line on student loan interest rates, click here.)

    Update: And speaking of Warren, kudos to her for this also.

    Meanwhile, in the House where Jenkins resides, her “leader” John Boehner came up with a “variable rate” student loan scheme (here) where a student’s rate would be reset every year, so that the loan rate the student paid as a freshman would likely increase each year until they graduated (kind of mirroring the nonsense in the Senate).

    Simply put, here is what’s going on: The Democrats in Congress favor “direct” student loans which pretty much remove the banks as the middle men, with the students receiving loans directly from their colleges (hence the name). This is in opposition to the utter nonsense of our longstanding system of student loans, whereby the banks collected big fees for “servicing” loans (basically doing nothing) at the expense of the borrowers, turning them into debt slaves before they had the opportunity to earn a paycheck in their field of study (a system the Repugs in Congress very much want to institute once more).

    Such words and actions as those of Rep. Jenkins are not surprising in any way, given that the House Speaker of her party once told bankers “Know that I have all of you in my two trusted hands” here (before the Dems in Congress cleaned up this mess when they were returned to power in 2006; if that were still the case, we most definitely would not be contemplating returning to this insanity once more).

  • Continuing, it looks like we have more wingnut harrumphing over the recent decision to delay implementing the so-called “employer mandate” portion of “Obamacare” until 2015 (here), which is particularly ridiculous given that the delay was praised by business leaders here.

    All of which makes Repug U.S. House Rep Tom Marino look like even more of a joke than he already is (here).

  • Further, let’s return to Tucker Carlson’s crayon scribble page for this item

    Roger Stone – the colorful GOP operative who takes credit for tipping off the feds to former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s prostitute habit – is feeling giddy.

    “It’s like Christmas in July,” Stone said by phone Monday.

    Spitzer, the disgraced Democrat who left office after his fondness for call girls came to light, announced over the weekend that he’s jumping back into politics and running for New York City comptroller.

    Stone says he’ll make sure Spitzer’s past is thoroughly discussed in the campaign.

    “He’s never addressed the crimes he has committed,” Stone said. “He’s going to be called out on each one of them. His record as attorney general will be reexamined.”

    Fair enough, but while we’re turning over all of these rocks, I personally want to hear the part again about how Spitzer faced prosecution from our prior ruling cabal under the Mann Act, a relic of our racist past federalizing crimes of vice that, up until the time it was instituted, had been left to local authorities for prosecution (yet another revolting contradiction from the “states’ rights” party), as noted here.

    Also, Roger Stone is a lot seamier of a character on the national stage than someone to be regarded as a “colorful” political operative. As noted from here:

    Stone is a legendary bottom-feeder (as noted here – second item), having visited X-rated sex clubs with his wife in Florida and “plac(ing) ads and pictures in racy publications and a website seeking sexual partners for himself and his second wife…he (also enjoyed) frequenting ‘Miami Velvet’ a swingers club in Miami.” Stone denied the report (of course).

    Stone also denied having anything to do with the Willie Horton ad that Lee Atwater ran against Michael Dukakis on behalf of Poppy Bush in 1988, and Stone also denied having anything whatsoever to do with the infamous “Brooks Brothers Riot” that halted the Miami Dade vote recount in Florida in November 2000 (I guess this is typical for a guy who says, “Admit nothing, deny everything, launch counterattack”).

    Also, Stone chaired a 1995 presidential bid by Sen. Arlen Specter (then a Repug, of course – he admitted that much anyway), and in 2004, Stone was responsible for distributing “Kerry/Specter” signs in a successful effort to defeat Dem Joe Hoeffel, who was challenging Specter for his Senate seat at the time (interesting company Arlen keeps, isn’t it?).

    Oh, and remember the godawful Citizens United ruling? Well, Stone originally founded the group in 2008 under the name “Citizens United Not Timid” against Hillary Clinton (I’ll let you, dear reader, determine the meaning of the acronym).

    More on Stone is here in Jeffrey Toobin’s fine New Yorker column.

    I don’t give a damn if Eliot Spitzer wins election as New York City comptroller or not. And I don’t care if he runs for office against Kanye West, Amanda Bynes or Honey Boo Boo. As long as he chooses to involve himself in another political campaign in response, let’s just be clear about who (or, more precisely, what) Roger Stone actually is, OK?

  • JW_0712

  • Finally, I have to depart from the usual fare once more and say a few words about a friend of mine.

    To start with an incredibly obvious remark, I should point out that, when you put your opinion out there the way I do (whether in printed form through “dead tree” media or online like this), you often are going to “travel with the herd” if you’re saying stuff that your audience wants to hear (and maybe get some decent traffic, though you really need to be on Twitter the way things are now, and I’m just not able to deal with that for news/political stuff), or, if you’re saying something against the prevailing wisdom, your comments are going to be few and far between (and your site traffic will reflect that). I’ve tried to aim for the middle, and I guess I’ve been successful some times and missed the boat, the water and the whole damn ocean at other times.

    (And by the way, that’s not a complaint. I don’t comment on other sites for a lot of reasons, mainly because surfing other sites interferes with my for-profit activities. I’ve always said that I’m a little fish in the great big bloggy ocean out there, or whatever other comparison you want to use. If I’m not active at other sites, then it’s really unrealistic to expect everyone in the world to be active here.)

    So my point (finally), is that, when I get comments, I remember them. And there was a time when a guy named John Wible of Bucks County, Pa was a pretty frequent commenter at the Blogger site that I link to over in the right column (the whole Blogger vs. WordPress thing is another long, boring story from ’08 that I’ll save for another time).

    I knew of John’s writing in the Bucks County Courier Times for about the last five or six years I guess – I once remarked how good it was at the Blogger site and he started leaving comments, which I appreciate (John was the anonymous commenter on this post pertaining to the Bucks GOP shenanigans with moving the polling location from the Creekside Apartments in Bensalem, PA – infamously referred to as a “Democrat poll” by an unnamed bottom-feeder of our county government – to some place nearby with difficult access at best for an elder population of, yes, primarily registered Democrats…it also helped that we were pretty much of one mind politically, as I’m sure you can guess).

    Leaving site comments the way he did led to an informal Email correspondence and a phone call from time to time to talk about politics and to find out how he was doing (I knew he had some kind of a gradually worsening heart/pulmonary condition that may have been tied to smoking, though I don’t know that for certain and don’t claim to speak with authority on that subject). I told him that I could definitely appreciate being in a position where you were getting called any one of a variety of names from those who took issue with what you had to say (to give you a taste of how lopsided the Courier Times is in favor of Republicans in general, the paper’s editorial page editor, Guy Petroziello, once referred to John in print as a “flaming liberal” – I responded to Petroziello and said that I’ll await the paper’s print publication of the term “flaming conservative” when referring to an editorial page writer…of course I received no response).

    I knew that John’s hospitalizations were becoming more frequent over the last year or so, and I’d heard from a mutual friend that he wanted to spend more time with his family and get away from all the political back-and-forth stuff given the state of his health. I more than understood, and for that reason I left him to himself, even though I missed the occasional phone calls where he would greet me with “hey, buddy” before we started chewing the fat over which conservative numbskull was given column space in that day’s edition of the Courier Times.

    On Sunday the 7th I received an Email telling me that a message appeared on his Facebook page saying that John had passed due to pneumonia (here). I’ll allow our mutual acquaintance to offer the following tribute:

    My friend was a profoundly kind man, with a good heart, he loved his family and loved people, he loved to make people laugh. He shared my political ideology and was kind to send me an e mail when he read my letters to the editor. We shared phone numbers but never got to speak. I regret that. I promise in his honor to keep writing to the editor and annoying him with my opinions until I too earn the badge of honor..”flaming liberal”. Be at peace my friend, I pray for his family as they need to be comforted and for surely my friend John Wible is in heaven long ago.

    I never met John Wible face to face, but I believe that I’m a better person because I knew him through his words and the down-to-earth, common-sense manner in which we communicated and by the topics we discussed. Our family of course extends our deepest sympathies to John’s family and friends.

    We’re the poorer for his loss, but at times like this, I think we can derive strength from knowing that he traveled with us and can draw on happy memories for solace, enabling us to keep up the fight.

    Which we most certainly will do – may we all be “flaming liberals” one day too.


  • Thursday Mashup (3/7/13)

    March 7, 2013
  • Another day, another supposed “scandal” according to Fix Noise (here)…

    President Obama’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency is already running into resistance from the fossil fuel industry over concerns that she would escalate a “war” on oil, coal and natural gas.

    EPA veteran Gina McCarthy was one of three nominees Obama announced at the White House late Monday morning. He also tapped MIT scientist Ernest Moniz to head the Energy Department and Walmart’s Sylvia Mathews Burwell as his next budget chief.

    All will have to undergo Senate confirmation. And McCarthy — given her background and the controversial nature of the agency she wants to lead — could face the toughest screening.

    “Today’s announcement that the president wants Gina McCarthy to serve as the next EPA administrator is a clear indication that the administration will continue a war on affordable energy,” Thomas Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, said in a statement.

    Oh yes, the EPA is so “controversial,” isn’t it? How dare they do their best to ensure that our water is safe to drink, our air is safe to breathe, and our landscapes aren’t hopelessly fouled by toxic waste! Damn tree huggers…

    Oh, and I almost forgot this choice item…

    Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said the nomination makes clear that Obama “wants to continue pursuing an aggressive climate agenda at EPA.”

    I guess “aggressive climate agenda” is wingnut code for making sure that we don’t take a deep breath and end up coughing up a lung as we exhale, in addition to being exposed to airborne particulates that could cause (or exacerbate) asthma, chronic bronchitis or heart disease, among other health concerns (I mean, it has to be that since, according to Inhofe, God has protected us from man-made global warming – really).

    And speaking of Inhofe…well, he once said that “I supported Regina McCarthy’s nomination today because I think she possesses the knowledge, experience, and temperament to oversee a very important office at EPA” (here, in a post that also includes praise of McCarthy from the following other Repugs: former CT governor Jodi Rell, former Ohio U.S. Senator George Voinovich, and Charles Warren, a former top EPA regulator who now represents industries such as steel companies).

    I think McCarthy deserves the benefit of the doubt thus far, though this could end up to be yet another case of the Repugs getting exactly what they want but carrying on with their caterwauling like spoiled brats anyway.

  • Next, I give you the following item based on the recent passing of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez…

    In a longer statement on his website, (Dem U.S. House Rep Jose) Serrano acknowledged that Chavez was a “controversial leader.” The New York lawmaker insisted Chavez helped Venezuela, because he tried to help the poor and disenfranchised. Serrano invited him to visit his district in 2005.

    The Republican National Committee pounced on Serrano’s tweet, issuing a statement that it was “simply insulting that a Democrat congressman would praise the authoritarian ruler Hugo Chavez.” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., told WPLG in Miami that she is “ashamed” by the comments made by Serrano and Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Mass.

    The Florida congresswoman singled out Kennedy because he issued a statement saying his “thoughts and prayers are with President Chavez’s family.” Ros-Lehtinen told the Miami TV station that condolences should go to Venezuelans who came to America to escape the Chavez regime.

    I will acknowledge that Chavez was one of these “one step forward, two or three steps back” kind of guys who rose to power pledging aid to the poor, and he delivered on that a bit, though he also did a poor job of managing his country’s economy as it transitioned from a “bubble to bust” cycle, typical for a country upon which oil remains a key exported commodity. And as Think Progress reminds us here, Chavez also demonized his opposition, attacking the press when it dared to criticize him, and he also helped to cultivate a particularly virulent strain of anti-Semitism.

    However, Ros-Lehtinen has no room to be “ashamed” of anybody when it comes to freedom of speech (and yeah, “Democrat” congressman – funny one, RNC).

    If I were a resident of the Sunshine State, I’d be “ashamed” of her for claiming to care about jobs first and foremost but waging war on those dreaded lady parts instead, along with (of course) tax cuts and trying to overturn those pesky government regulations that are supposedly holding back our “job creators” (here).

    I would also be “ashamed” of her for first blasting Democrats for an anti-terrorism bill in response to the 9/11 Commission recommendations before she (and Steve King, her partner in wingnuttery) voted for the bill anyway (here).

    I would also be “ashamed” of her for supporting tax breaks for Big Oil and Social Security privatization (no evidence that she has ever changed her mind on that – here).

    Oh, and I think Ros-Lehtinen should also be “ashamed” of doing her part to scuttle the International Protecting Girls By Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2010 (a bill which doesn’t even mention family planning or abortion, by the way, as HuffPo’s Amanda Terkel points out here). Or, as Conor Williams of the Washington Post pointed out, “How can Republicans explain efforts to defeat a human rights bill because of $67 million in potential spending while simultaneously pushing for a tax cut deal for wealthy Americans that will add $858 billion to the deficit? Is this at all credible?”

    When it comes to Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and her playmates, if you even have to ask a question like that, chances are that you already know the answer.

  • Continuing, I wanted to point out the following here

    HARRISBURG – They can’t breathe. They don’t bleed. They don’t digest food.

    But, as Mitt Romney famously blurted, corporations are people – at least under the law. In theCitizens United decision in 2010, for instance, the Supreme Court recognized that corporations have the constitutional right of free speech, something most people assumed belonged to actual carbon-based life-forms.

    The court struck down limits on corporate election spending, ruling them the same as banning speech. It helped unleash an estimated $933 million in spending by outside groups and wealthy people in the 2012 presidential race.

    And that was why David Cobb was preaching in a steamy and too-small hotel meeting room at the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit here Friday night, selling the salvation of a constitutional amendment that would restrict rights to “natural persons only,” giving government the power to regulate corporations, and declaring that campaign expenditures are not speech.

    “Corporations are ruling us, as surely as masters once ruled slaves, as surely as kings once ruled subjects,” said Cobb, a former Texas trial lawyer and 2004 Green Party presidential nominee. “We don’t have a functioning democracy in this country. The word we should be using is plutocracy. . . . It really chaps my hide.”

    Cobb is one of the leaders of Move to Amend, a sprawling coalition of lefty groups worried about the corrosive influence of money in politics and intent on upending Citizens United. More than that, Cobb said, the idea of legal personhood gives corporations disproportionate power over the political system.

    I applaud the efforts of Cobb and those who belong to the coalition – it’s a huge fight, but one that must be waged, I know.

    However, I wanted to take a very slight issue with something Cobb said below…

    Move to Amend is gathering force, with more than 272,000 supporters and 175 local affiliates, including one in Pittsburgh. Activists have persuaded 500 city and county governments to pass resolutions of support, including in Philadelphia and Wilkes-Barre.

    The initiative would curb unions’ ability to finance campaigns, too.

    Support crosses political divisions. True-blue New Jersey’s Legislature backed a resolution, as did super-red Montana voters in a referendum – the same day they voted for Romney.

    “We’re true believers,” Cobb said in an interview. “We’re Elmer Gantry. We’re not going to compromise.”

    For the uninitiated, that’s a reference to the book by Sinclair Lewis in which the lead character was a charismatic huckster who once set out to become a lawyer but decided to turn to evangelism instead (played brilliantly by Burt Lancaster in the 1960 movie, for which he won an Academy Award). I’d be a little leery of invoking that kind of a comparison…just sayin’.

  • Further, someone named Michael Warren at The Weakly Standard criticized Bruce Braley, the Dem running to replace Iowa’s Tom Harkin for the latter’s U.S. Senate seat, for Braley’s claim that any proposed Senate budget has been filibustered; Warren says that only a simple majority is needed to pass a budget (here).

    That actually is true, shockingly enough. However, as noted here, the Senate needs to clear the 60-vote threshold to enact the budget (more parliamentary minutiae concerning “the world’s greatest deliberative body”…wonder how the DC punditocracy came up with that, by the way?).

    So that would make Braley partly right after all (and to find out more about Braley, click here).

  • Also, this tells us about the lawsuit that Beef Products, Inc. filed against ABC News, Diane Sawyer, and anyone else under the sun that has had anything to do with the term “pink slime” going viral concerning their meat product; I don’t really care about our supposedly august corporate media facing legal action, nor am I longing to hear another “gee whiz” account of social media in action doing good (though credit should go where it is supposed to, I know), but I do care about how BPI’s product ended up in supermarkets, school kitchens and fast food restaurants.

    And with that in mind, this 2009 New York Times story referenced in the Reuters account tells us the following:

    Eight years ago, federal officials were struggling to remove potentially deadly E. coli from hamburgers when an entrepreneurial company from South Dakota came up with a novel idea: injecting beef with ammonia.

    The company, Beef Products Inc., had been looking to expand into the hamburger business with a product made from beef that included fatty trimmings the industry once relegated to pet food and cooking oil. The trimmings were particularly susceptible to contamination, but a study commissioned by the company showed that the ammonia process would kill E. coli as well as salmonella.

    Officials at the United States Department of Agriculture endorsed the company’s ammonia treatment, and have said it destroys E. coli “to an undetectable level.” They decided it was so effective that in 2007, when the department began routine testing of meat used in hamburger sold to the general public, they exempted Beef Products.

    With the U.S.D.A.’s stamp of approval, the company’s processed beef has become a mainstay in America’s hamburgers. McDonald’s, Burger King and other fast-food giants use it as a component in ground beef, as do grocery chains. The federal school lunch program used an estimated 5.5 million pounds of the processed beef last year alone.

    But government and industry records obtained by The New York Times show that in testing for the school lunch program, E. coli and salmonella pathogens have been found dozens of times in Beef Products meat, challenging claims by the company and the U.S.D.A. about the effectiveness of the treatment. Since 2005, E. coli has been found 3 times and salmonella 48 times, including back-to-back incidents in August in which two 27,000-pound batches were found to be contaminated. The meat was caught before reaching lunch-rooms trays.

    Within the U.S.D.A., the treated beef has been a source of friction for years. The department accepted the company’s own study as evidence that the treatment was effective. School lunch officials, who had some doubts about its effectiveness, required that Beef Products meat be tested, as they do all beef used by the program.

    School lunch officials said that in some years Beef Products testing results were worse than many of the program’s two dozen other suppliers, which use traditional meat processing methods. From 2005 to 2009, Beef Products had a rate of 36 positive results for salmonella per 1,000 tests, compared to a rate of nine positive results per 1,000 tests for the other suppliers, according to statistics from the program. Beef Products said its testing regime was more likely to detect contamination.

    Well, that’s about what you would expect BPI to say, wouldn’t you?

    So who was the U.S.D.A. head who approved the scheme around 2002 to inject ammonia into the beef, leaving it tainted and rendered as “pink slime”? Why, that would be Bushco’s Ann Veneman.

    And who was in charge of the U.S.D.A. in 2007 when the decision was made to exempt Beef Products, Inc. from testing before selling their “Franken meat” to the general public? Why, that would be Bushco’s Mike Johanns (yeah, the same guy who passed that resolution defunding ACORN that was later ruled to be unconstitutional – here and here).

    Oh, and isn’t it just such a coincidence that BPI’s Eldon Roth was a “Top 10” contributor to Johanns during the latter’s career in public life, as noted here?

    Meanwhile, it looks like McDonald’s has ended its association with BPI and its “pink slime” burgers based on this, and we can thank UK celebrity chef Jamie Oliver for that.

    What a shame that we can’t pursue any kind of action against Veneman and Johanns for this stuff (an appropriate sentence would be to force them to eat this garbage, keeping the stomach pumps at the ready if needed).

  • goldberg

  • Finally, I read this from The Doughy Pantload yesterday, and I really had to work hard to compose myself after doing so…

    One thing nearly everybody agrees upon is that the “sequester” is a silly sideshow to the real challenge facing America: unsustainable spending on entitlements. Ironies abound. Democrats, with large support from young people, tend to believe that we must build on the legacy bequeathed to us by the New Deal and the Great Society. Republicans, who marshaled considerable support from older voters in their so-far losing battle against ObamaCare, argue that we need to start fresh.

    Perhaps it’s time for both sides to consider an underappreciated fact of American life: The system we are trying to perpetuate was created for the explicit benefit of the so-called greatest generation, the most coddled and cared for cohort in American history.

    You son of a bitch…

    OK, let me back up and point something out here. As you can note from the rest of this post and what I generally try to do at this site, I often provide multiple links to content in the process of making my case.

    To respond to this contemptible gutter snipe, though, I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to tell you a little bit about my family.

    My father was a World War II veteran who served in Europe for five years before he came home, went to college on the GI bill, and earned a Master’s degree before he began a lengthy and somewhat-high-profile career in government service. My mother was primarily a homemaker, though she also worked as an office manager in the medical field for many, many years (I was tempted to tell her about this garbage from Goldberg, but she’s in frail health and the last thing I want to do is cause some medical problem because of this idiot).

    And if you want to go back even further than that, my grandfather served in World War I. He was a member of the “Bonus March” (you can Google it) and ended up doing anything he possibly could when the Great Depression hit (dig ditches, selling pencils – he and my grandmother had to take on boarders when my mom was a little girl). None of this makes my family and I particularly special, I know.

    Oh yeah, The Great Depression – something Goldberg barely mentions in his ridiculous column. It went on for about 10 years, though it varied across the country. Around the middle of the 1930s it appeared to be letting up (in the days before credit cards, let’s not forget), but somebody came up with the bright idea of “austerity” (Past is Prologue 101) and it all went south again, with things starting to turn around at about 1938 or so (going from my mom’s recollections).

    So what happens when the Depression ends? Why only World War Freaking Two, that’s all (and yes, I know there’s a good argument to be made that that was really the end of the Depression, marking a return to full employment…I get that).

    So let’s jump ahead to 1945 or so (’46, in the case of my parents). Whoever survived the Depression and the war comes home and goes to work creating what will likely turn out to be the greatest run of peacetime industrial productivity and prosperity this country has ever seen, primarily for the “baby boomers” (I guess I’m bringing up the rear on that demographic, as they say).

    Now, I’m not going to buy into this Tom Brokaw “Greatest Generation” hagiography either; notwithstanding what I just pointed out, the men and women of my parents’ era were not beings descended from ivory towers or Doric temples. They were just dumped into inexplicably awful circumstances, showing legendary courage and resolve to be sure, but prone to imperfections, as are we all.

    However, you can rest assured that they were definitely not “the most coddled and cared for cohort in American history” either.

    And I’d like to venture a guess about something – if I were to ask some of them what they thought about what Goldberg said, I think they would probably feel more than a bit of disgust, but then they would derive satisfaction from the fact that they ended up building a way of life that allows a fungible little nematode like Goldberg the freedom to concoct this bile without fear of retribution from a fuhrer, emperor, or some other totalitarian leader.

    In other words, to use a somewhat misinterpreted phrase that grew trite over the last election, my parents “built it.”

    And the pride from that monumental accomplishment is something Goldberg will never, ever know or understand.


  • Another Smelly Screed By “Byko”

    May 11, 2009

    I guess it’s a sign of progress that Philadelphia Daily News columnist Stu Bykofsky decided to actually criticize a Republican today for our budget mess in addition to laying the blame at the feet of Democrats here (yeah, that’s more than a bit of a stretch – I belabored the point here that we ended up in this hole first and foremost because of profligate Repug mismanagement for most of this decade…”Byko” is opining here about the $17 billion cut by President Obama from his 2010 budget).

    And, in the midst of some pretty relentless name-calling against Janeane Garofalo since she had the audacity to call the “teabaggers” out for the racists that they are (check this out), “Byko” ends up “want(ing) to kick myself – for not interviewing the handful of African-Americans I saw at the local protest” (I suppose a few attended, but I didn’t see any – if that isn’t a case of “Stockholm Syndrome,” then I don’t know what is).

    But I wanted to take note of the following

    (Iowa Dem Senator Tom) Harkin fought to keep a $1.8 million earmark to study how to deal with the odor from pig manure. (How about the stench coming from Congress, Tom?)

    I realize that pig manure isn’t a big deal to Byko or most other people not living in the vicinity of a farm, but still, the following should be noted from here (in which Harkin objects to Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who of course objects to the $1.8 million also)…

    “I suppose we’ll hear a lot of jokes on David Letterman and Jay Leno and a lot of other people will be making jokes about this money for manure. But keep in mind this is not wasteful or an unnecessary or frivolous. This is very important in the daily lives in the people of my state, in North Carolina and every other place where we raise swine,” said Harkin, who pointed out that something in the neighborhood of 20 million pigs live in Iowa on any given day.

    “In farm country manure and odor management are profound, serious challenges which can be mitigated through scientific research,” said Harkin, who pointed out that in Coburn’s state of Oklahoma the issue of pig odor led to a lawsuit by the governor against a neighboring state over animal waste – in this case from poultry.

    “I ask the senator to travel in his own state, ask farmers and their neighbors about whether it is worthwhile to do research into animal odor and manure management,” said Harkin “If I’m not mistaken — and I may be here; I don’t know. if I’m not mistaken, I believe the attorney general of Oklahoma a few years ago brought a case, an action, I think, against their neighboring state, if I’m not mistaken — Arkansas — in terms of some of the effluent that was coming into Oklahoma. And this, again, raised questions of manure management, how it’s put on the land and things like that. And that’s what this research is about. People constantly complain, with good reason, about big farms, factory farms and their environmental impacts. So it makes good sense to fund research that addresses how people can live in our small towns and communities and livestock producers can do the same, and they can coexist.”

    Besides, Byko, you should be more concerned about the stench emanating from North Broad Street instead, particularly every Friday and every other Thursday from certain editorial writers I frequently take to task. It still seems to attract my attention even after moving from the City of Brotherly Love a number of years ago.


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