PA’s Teahadist “Eminence Grise” Strikes Again (Updates)

February 26, 2016

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The Bucks County Courier Times recently gave column space to State Senator Scott Wagner, with predictable results (here)…

More money — $3.6 billion to be exact. That is the amount of additional tax revenue Gov. Wolf wants from you to fund his tax and spend budget. To that I ask, “How dare he?”

Although his budget address to a joint session of the General Assembly was lacking specifics of his 2016-2017 budget proposal, the reality is that Gov. Wolf is continuing the tax and spend theme presented last year.

During his speech, the governor painted a doom and gloom picture as a means to convince the people of Pennsylvania — or maybe himself — that massive tax increases are needed to address the commonwealth’s fiscal problems. He even reflected back on his time as a business owner stating, “You have to take a clear-eyed look at how the problem arose, and then you have to solve it. And fast. Or you won’t be in business very long.”

Besides failing to identify the real problem, Wolf’s only solution is to raise your taxes. Again, how dare he? How dare the governor ask for more money from the people of Pennsylvania without taking basic steps to control costs?

How dare Gov. Wolf ask you to give him more money without:

Doing anything to reform the pension system that is driving costs — and property taxes — through the roof?

Actually, Wolf introduced the pension reform clamored for by Wagner and other Repugs last August, as noted here. But of course, that was shot down by the Repug-controlled General Assembly, including Wagner of course.

And let’s not forget about how public employee pensions prop up local economies (so, if you start cutting, get ready to anticipate the ripple effects, as noted here).

Oh, and Wolf’s budget includes property tax reform, as noted here (with York, the county “represented” by Wagner, poised to do well under the plan – that is, of course, if Wagner would actually support it).

Continuing with Wagner…

Reforming our archaic liquor distribution system to maximize not only consumer convenience but also revenue to the state?

Actually, Wolf took a step in that direction by proposing a private manager, but of course, it isn’t outright privatization, so the Repugs and Wagner opposed it (here).

Continuing with Wagner…

Implementing a real hiring and wage freeze on state workers?

In reality, Wolf ordered a hiring freeze last December, as noted here, even though a state meteorologist managed to get in before the freeze took effect (Wagner made a crack about that here, but as noted here, that’s actually a good idea; I’m sure this Jeff Jumper person could make much more money in the private sector). Of course, state government agencies managed to hire about 3,132 workers anyway; I don’t see how Wolf could be blamed for that.

Continuing with Wagner…

Asking for more concessions from state employees that enjoy pay and benefits unmatched in the private sector?

As noted here for 2012 (the most recent year that I could find data for), on average, a public-sector employee’s salary can range from about $38,000 to about $66,000, with PA workers in the mid-range of that on average; I don’t know how “unmatched” the benefits are, but the pay certainly isn’t.

Of course, demagoguery on the subject of public employees is typical for Wagner who, as noted here, made his fortune in waste disposal and trucking before he won a special election in 2014 and entered public life. And soon after that, he referred to public sector unions as “kind of like Hitler and Stalin and Putin”…nice.

Continuing with Wagner…

Asking for concessions from the money managers that get paid hundreds of millions of dollars to manage the state pension funds?

This may come as a shock, but Wagner is actually right about that. And Wolf agrees with him and has proposed firing the higher-fee managers and replacing them with lower-fee ones, particularly since the funds of the lower-fee managers have outperformed their counterparts (here).

Continuing with Wagner…

Using savings from innovations and efficiency to shrink the looming budget deficit?

I don’t know what that means, and somehow I don’t think Wagner does either.

At this point, I think I’ll stop critiquing the rest of what Wagner said, particularly since he repeats himself like crazy for the rest of his Guest Opinion (besides, at this point, we already know that Wagner is a pro when it comes to regurgitating talking points from the Commonwealth Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, and other Teahadist-affiliated groups).

Instead, I’ll provide more information on Wagner, who, as noted here, is a big-time advocate of charter schools (as noted here, Wagner once tried to guess at how well-funded he thought public schools were in his district by flying over them and observing from a helicopter). And as noted above, in addition to direct loans, he also tried some back-door means to fund charters through gaming revenue, which proceeded to totally piss off the school districts where the charters were located (here).

And another thing – let’s not forget how well-versed Wagner is when it comes to the eliminationist rhetoric supposedly employed by Wolf (re., the “garbage” reference Wolf used to refer to the Repug General Assembly proposal last December), with Wagner claiming that he and his same-party pals “had their foot on Wolf’s throat, and (we) let him up” here.

Also, even though the Courier Times has the right to print an opinion of this type no matter how wacky it is, what does it tell you about how far out on the fringe Wagner resides on this issue given that the paper cheered on Governor Wolf when he rejected the GOP’s sham attempt at a budget (here)? This came after a budget more in line with what Wolf has promised passed the PA Senate 43-7, as noted here (and guess who was one of the 7 “No” votes, as noted here?).

As far as I’m concerned, Scott Wagner is more responsible than anyone else in Harrisburg for our current budget impasse for all of the reasons noted previously. And kids, those living in poverty, families, minorities, and working men and women in this state (including those previously-mentioned public sector workers he despises, including policemen, firemen, nurses and teachers among many others) have all suffered and will continue to suffer as a result.

Update 1 3/5/16: Given what Wagner said above, I think it’s important to note the following (from here – h/t Atrios)…

My own state has a budget hole that the legislature is going to blow open worse next year as they expand tax cuts for energy producers, and up north in Pennslyvania (sic), Gov. Wolf is trying to clean up Corbett’s mess but Republicans are having a god damned siezure (sic) over raising the personal income tax from 3.07 percent to 3.4 percent. You read that right. from .0307 to .034. Meaning for every hundred dollars of taxable income, your income tax rises from $3.07 to $3.40. For the median income in PA, that is basically 150 bucks a year.

So when Wagner says “How dare he?” about Wolf, it has to do a tax raise that is, on average, about $150 a year.

I just want to make sure we all understand that.

Update 2 3/5/16: Another response is here.

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Update 3/30/17: So Teahadist Wagner (who of course has announced that he’ll challenge PA Dem Gov. Tom Wolf) believe that climate change is taking place because of “warm bodies” (here)? Truly, it is to laugh (though the consequences definitely aren’t funny of course).

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Tuesday Mashup (9/16/14)

September 16, 2014
  • I give you the following bit of unreality from thehill.com (here)…

    Congressional Republicans have a simple mantra as they take a brief break from the campaign trail and return to Washington: Do no harm.

    Really?? “Do no harm??”

    In response, I give you this, including the following…

    The dereliction of duty by Congressional Republicans is solely responsible for this Congress’ being the most unproductive in American history. While the Republican Congressional majority perfected the art of doing nothing, millions of Americans had their lives and families negatively impacted or otherwise put at risk by their indifference or inaction. What I would suggest is that rather than attending the farcical Republican PR exercise on Benghazi, an issue which most Americans hold little or no interest, House Democrats instead hold competing hearings addressing the failures of the Republican caucus, the colossal waste of taxpayer resources caused by their intransigence and their failure to legislate, and the consequences of these failures to the country and its citizens.

    The Daily Kos post outlines six areas where the U.S. House Repugs have indeed “done harm,” if you will:

  • Their continued, idiotic fighting over the Affordable Care Law
  • Last year’s near-ruinous government shut down
  • Failure to act on job-creating legislation
  • Failure to act on immigration reform
  • Failure to extend unemployment benefits
  • Maintaining “austerity” and the disastrous “sequester” (more here)
  • And on top of that, I would add the following:

  • Voting 109 times against environmental protection (here)
  • Opposing the Paycheck Fairness Act (here)
  • Opposing common-sense gun control (here)
  • And I KNOW this list is incomplete, but this is what I have for now.

    And in keeping with this sorry theme, I give you this from U.S. House Rep Mark Pocan (here)…

    …Pocan (D-WI) seems to have found Speaker Boehner’s hubris hard to swallow today.

    On the heels of Boehner’s announcement that the Republican Party will be doing what it always does when a Democrat is in office — sue and try to impeach (after obstruction and ginning up scandals) — Pocan laughed in Boehner’s face with a statement denouncing the Speaker for his historically lazy House that tried to shut the government down just last year.

    “With Speaker Boehner and the Tea Party at the helm, this Congress has failed to act on vital legislation to help improve the lives of Americans. The same Speaker who allowed the government to shut down last October, now intends to sue the President of the United States for acting while Congress has not, instead voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act 54 times and turning the tragedy in Benghazi into a manufactured scandal.

    “In fact, the least productive Congress in modern history – the so-called ‘Do-nothing Congress’ of 1948 – passed 350 bills in their first year; this Congress passed fewer than 100 bills in its first year. It is ironic the Speaker would sue the President for doing his job while the House of Representatives fails to do its job.

    I don’t know who Scott Wong of The Hill is (the person responsible for this garbage column), but I would say that he needs to get out of his Beltway media bubble and talk to some real people; it would probably be most enlightening.

  • Next, as a follow-up to an earlier movie-critiquing post by Armond White at Irrational Spew Online, I give you this from Kevin Williamson (quoting fellow Spew writer David Kahane, who said the following about Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction”: “Vincent Vega, the unbeliever, dies unredeemed in Butch Coolidge’s bathroom, while Jules, who accepts the reality of miracles, grants absolution…and is thus saved.”)…

    It is unlikely that Mr. Tarantino set out to make something conservative any more than did the people who write Allstate commercials. Propagandistic entertainment, from the left or the right, generally fails as it approaches specificity: Consider that raft of dopey anti-war movies a few years back that nobody went to see…

    Um, nothis tells us that “Fahrenheit 9/11,” the “big daddy” of the anti-Iraq war movie genre, if you will, was the highest grossing documentary of all time ($222 million worldwide). Also, this tells us that Oliver Stone’s “W” grossed $22 million worldwide (more of a biopic than a polemic, I believe), and the documentary “Inside Job” grossed $8 million here (again, not “anti-war” per se, but respectable for a documentary with a definite “advocacy” point of view which I believe is entirely appropriate).

    At least Williamson is talking about something here which isn’t likely to do anyone any personal harm; I can’t say the same for this, though.

  • Further, it seems that our commonwealth’s illustrious governor, Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett, is “all in” on the issue of pension reform (here)…

    Public workers’ pension costs are a “Pac-Man” that will consume an ever-greater share of the state budget unless changes are made – and his Democratic opponent continues to duck that issue, Gov. Corbett said Wednesday.

    “If I don’t get reelected for four more years, there will be nothing done about this, because Mr. [Tom] Wolf says there is not a pension problem,” Corbett said.

    If he wins a second term, Corbett said, he would call a special session of the legislature early next year to force action on pensions, including for municipal workers. He said Scranton is distressed because of unaffordable pension obligations and predicted some school districts in Pennsylvania will come “doggone close to bankruptcy” without a solution.

    In response, I give you the following from here (hat tip to Diane Ravitch’s blog)…

    – The governor’s claim that passing pension “reform” will reduce local property taxes is incredibly misleading.

    – …no matter how deeply Gov. Corbett cuts benefits for future workers, it will not provide any near-term budgetary savings for the state or school districts.

    – Gov. Corbett cut education funding by $1 billion in his first year, and those cuts now total $3 billion over his tenure. His state funding cuts have left school districts with few options but to increase local property taxes, increase class sizes, layoff teachers and other school employees and cut course offerings.

    – Pension costs are less than 6% of the state’s entire operating budget.

    – More than half of today’s pension payment goes towards paying old debt, not to current pension costs.

    – In 2010, an overwhelmingly bipartisan majority of the House and Senate approved Act 120 – a pension reform roadmap.

    – Act 120 cut new employee benefits by 20%; thereby, reducing the cost to the state by 60% (or $33 billion), and charted the course for addressing the debt.

    – Act 120 put in place predictable, moderated payments before the governor assumed office, yet he imprudently decided to cut education funding and business taxes – making it difficult for the state and school districts to make these payments.

    – None of the state’s pension debt is associated with the retirement benefits for new school and state employees hired since the Act 120 reforms took effect in 2011.

    – As we learned last year with Gov. Corbett’s pension proposal, the costs associated with closing the state’s current defined benefit plan FAR exceed any savings realized from switching to a 401(k)-style plan – costing the state upwards of $40 billion.

    – There are NO short-term savings for the state or school districts.

    – Any long-term savings touted by the plan’s supporters are decades away. Also, any savings will be significantly reduced or eliminated when the plan is paired with Gov. Corbett’s budget proposal to shortchange the pension obligations for the next 4 years.

    The .pdf from Joe Markosek, Democratic Chairman of the PA House Appropriations Committee, contains a lot of interesting detail and context comparing Corbett’s proposals with those of the Democrats, including former Governor Ed Rendell. If you want to learn more about the issue of pension reform in our beloved commonwealth, I would ask that you review it (and to help Corbett’s opponent in this election, click here).

    Tom Corbett remains an incredibly unpopular politician (more here) for very good reasons. And if he thinks he’ll be saved by propagandizing on the issue of pension reform, then he’s more out of touch than I ever imagined.

  • Continuing, I give you this from The Weakly Standard…

    Democratic senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana lists her parents’ New Orleans address as her primary residence for voting purposes. But it’s clear she and her husband consider their primary residence to be their multimillion-dollar home on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. These revelations have provided fodder for Landrieu’s political opponents (the Louisiana Democrat is up for reelection this year), with one conservative super PAC releasing an ad suggesting the Democrat is more representative of the District of Columbia than Louisiana. Landrieu faces a tough reelection battle this November.

    Oh yeah, that’s right – Landrieu is indeed running for re-election against Repug Bill Cassidy, who recently said here that that supposedly awful Harry Reid runs the U.S. Senate “like a plantation” (cue the theme from “Ol’ Man River”).

    I’ll tell you what; if the “other side” chooses to ignore Landrieu on this supposed issue, then I’ll overlook Kansas Repug Senator Pat Roberts, who dealt with a very similar matter here (and who is apparently trailing Independent U.S. Senate candidate Greg Orman here; kind of worrisome for Roberts that he should be polling as low as 34 percent this close to election day, but that’s his problem).

  • Moving on, I have to admit that it has been a looong time since I came across the Ph.D.-level wankery I encountered recently from Wayne Allyn Root of Fix Noise here – what follows is a brief excerpt.

    NR_Cruise_0916
    (And if you can guess that it’s yet another “bash Obama”-fest, then you win complimentary tickets to another conservative cruise, whether you want them or not)…

    Let’s start with national security. Security experts are warning a terrorist attack on America soil appears imminent. Only days ago, the federal government put out a bulletin warning about that same threat.

    The “warning” came from Judicial Watch – more about them is here

    Continuing…

    Where would the terrorists come from? Our Southern border with Mexico is wide open for anyone to walk across. Our border is under siege. Obama has no strategy to stop or even slow the invasion of America by either terrorists, or desperate poor masses expecting billions of dollars in welfare from cradle to grave. Just the cost of educating the new illegal immigrant children in this school year is over $700 million.

    America is already bankrupt and almost $18 trillion in debt. Where will the money come from?

    In terms of our border with Mexico (and elsewhere), I would ask that you consider the following (from here)…

    Imagine the once thin borderline of the American past as an ever-thickening band, now extending 100 miles inland around the United States — along the 2,000-mile southern border, the 4,000-mile northern border, and both coasts — and you will be able to visualize how vast the (Customs and Border Protection, or CBP)’s jurisdiction has become. This “border” region now covers places where two-thirds of the U.S. population (197.4 million people) live. The ACLU has come to call it a “constitution-free zone.” The “border” has by now devoured the full states of Maine and Florida and much of Michigan.

    The zone first came into existence thanks to a series of laws passed by Congress in the 1940s and 1950s at a time when the Border Patrol was just an afterthought with a miniscule budget and only 1,100 agents. Today, Customs and Border Protection has more than 60,000 employees and is by far the largest federal law enforcement agency in the country. According to author and constitutional attorney John Whitehead, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), created in 2002, is efficiently and ruthlessly building “a standing army on American soil.”

    Long ago, President James Madison warned that “a standing military force, with an overgrown Executive, will not long be safe companions to liberty.” With its 240,000 employees and $61 billion budget, the DHS, Whitehead points out, is militarizing police units, stockpiling ammunition, spying on activists, and building detention centers, among many other things. CBP is the uniformed and most visible component of this “standing army.” It practically has its own air force and navy, an Office of Air and Marine equipped with 280 sea vessels, 250 aircraft, and 1,200 agents.

    And in terms of the supposed cost of educating immigrant kids, this puts it closer to $615 million; I still don’t know how the cost can be calculated since we don’t have a handle of how many kids are likely to try and become citizens (and Michael Moore refutes the lie that we’re “broke” here; also, I thought this was a good response to the $18 trillion claim…namely, that it overwhelmingly came from the debt run up by Republican presidents).

    I honestly lack the time, the patience, and the calories to do a point-by-point rebuttal of Root’s hysterical propaganda. I’m sure, though, that it was highly satisfying to his audience of bottom feeders who ingest this and other nonsense from the network that also routinely gives us stuff like this.

  • Finally, I should note that Ayaan Hirsi Ali was scheduled to speak at Yale last night; as Eric Owens of The Daily Tucker tells us here, she is a “Somali-born American activist.”

    Of course, since we’re talking about Tucker Carlson’s Crayon Scribble Page here, you KNOW there has to be an opportunity to try and gin up some phony outrage – three, two, one…

    Yale’s chaplain, Sharon Kugler, is among the critics of the visit.

    In a statement provided to Inside Higher Ed, Kugler lashed out at Hirsi Ali, calling her a “hateful” and “disparaging” person.

    “We understand and affirm Yale’s commitment to free expression within an educational context,” Kugler said in the statement. “We are deeply concerned, however, by Ms. Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s long record of disparaging, and arguably hateful, comments about Muslims and Islam.”

    I would say so; as Media Matters notes here

    Hirsi Ali is not moderate in her views of Islam — once referring to the religion as “a destructive nihilistic cult of death” in a 2007 interview with The London Evening Standard. The New York Times reports that Hirsi Ali has also “advocated the closing of Islamic schools in the West and said that ‘violence is inherent in Islam’ and that ‘Islam is the new fascism’.” In a 2007 Reason interview, she also called for Islam to be militarily crushed and suggested the Constitution should be amended to permit oppression of U.S. Muslims.

    Hirsi Ali has similarly used her position at AEI to push for antagonistic relations between the U.S. and Muslim-majority countries, even criticizing President Obama for not “associating Islam with extremism.” In a 2010 Wall Street Journal op-ed, How to Win the Clash of Civilizations, Hirsi Ali highlighted her views that Islam “is at war with America” and wrote that Western civilization “needs to be actively defended” against Islam.

    If Hirsi Ali had specified that she was talking about Islamic extremism, then I would have no problem with her. However, I think it’s reprehensible to denigrate an entire religion because a relatively small percentage of crazies carry out inhuman actions and claim to be followers of that religion.

    And just for good measure, Owens concocts the following drivel (simply precious)…

    Kugler does not appear to have objected when noted kiteboarding enthusiast John Kerry spoke at Yale, or when noted adulterer Bill Clinton spoke at Yale, or when television journalist Barbara Walters, who tried to help a former aide to Syrian President Bashar Assad find employment in the United States, spoke at the school.

    I for one can continue to rest easy knowing that The Daily Tucker is ever-vigilant to the potential threat posed to this country by that massive horde of kiteboarding, dictator-friendly serial adulterers out there. Carry on, citizens!


  • Friday Mashup (8/22/14)

    August 22, 2014
  • I give you the following from Fix Noise “Democrat” Doug Schoen here

    In November, Thomas Foley, a businessman and former ambassador to Ireland, will take on Connecticut Democrat Governor Dannel Malloy in a re-match of the 2010 battle for governor that Foley lost by about 6,500 votes.

    Foley had an easy time in his Republican primary last week, defeating State Senate minority leader John McKinney by over ten points. But taking on the sitting governor will be a difficult task.

    As I’ve discussed in previous pieces on this summer’s primaries, we are in – and have been in – for some major upsets. Chief evidence of this remains Eric Cantor’s stunning defeat as well as Hawaii Democrat Governor Neil Abercrombie’s loss just last week.

    Both Cantor and Abercrombie lost because they alienated core constituencies in their respective parties. For Abercrombie, it was “Liberals, moderates, retirees, teachers, the rich, the poor,” etc., as Daily Kos diarist Skaje points out here. For Cantor, it was teabagging wingnuts who opposed anything having to do with immigration reform (and who, as far as I’m concerned, are partly responsible for this).

    Basically, it looks like Malloy has to give Foley some kind of an opportunity to make inroads against him, and Schoen’s claim that Malloy is supposedly “politicizing” the gun issue by signing onto the common sense reforms that came out of the Sandy Hook massacre doesn’t really count as far as I’m concerned (I was pleasantly surprised to read Schoen wisely dismiss a garbage poll on the contest from Real Clear Politics, one claiming that Foley had a 7-point lead; Schoen said the race is closer to a toss-up, which, given the fact that we haven’t hit the post-Labor Day “sprint” yet in our elections, is probably right – public opinion doesn’t appear to have completely settled one way or the other yet).

    As for Foley, though, I think we should keep the following in mind:

  • He once said to unemployed Connecticut factory workers here that “it’s your fault that the plant is closing” (good one).
  • As noted here, Foley is still working on his “urban strategy” to go against Malloy in places like Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport.
  • And as noted here, Foley has claimed that he can balance budgets by cutting spending without raising taxes (yes, this is a recording), but when it comes to specifics, cue the sound of crickets.
  • Tom Foley looks like another Romney-esque “one percenter” who seems to believe that he merits political office merely by the force of his resume. Hopefully that matter will be settled once and for all after Election Day in a few months.

  • Next, I guess it’s really true that Number 44 wants to be impeached – at least, according to Repug U.S. House Rep Mick Mulvaney here

    “Believe me, let’s make one thing perfectly clear,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina in a radio interview with WQSC 1340 last week. “The only people who want impeachment more than the right wing of the Republican Party is the entire Democrat Party.”

    “Democrat” Party, huh? Bless Mulvaney’s pointed little head…

    “Oh, they’re desperate for impeachment. They would love to be able to talk about impeachment and immigration between now and the November elections. Instead of talking about jobs, and the economy, and health care. They are desperate to change the dialogue, which is exactly why you heard the president starting to talk about his amnesty cause (sic) he’s begging to be impeached.”

    Well, isn’t that just special from Mulvaney? Oh, and by the way, I’d like to point out the following:

  • Mulvaney was one of 67 U.S. House Republicans who voted against relief for the victims of Hurricane Sandy, as noted here (of course).
  • He said that claims that global warming is, at least, in part man-made are “baseless” here (again, of course).
  • He said in January 2011 that he didn’t “know” what the consequences would be if the debt ceiling isn’t raised, even though a report from the Congressional Research Service laid it out pretty clearly here.
  • And I think this is some overly-artful language from Mulvaney on the question of immigration reform (from here):

    “There are really two good arguments against immigration reform that have nothing to do with immigration,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.). “One is that the president can’t be trusted to enforce all sides of a compromise. … The other one is this tactical question about whether it’s a good idea to do before the election, and I don’t know if that is a settled issue yet.”

    Translated: Republicans can’t do anything on immigration because of that baaad Kenyan Muslim Socialist and because it’s too close to an election and we don’t want to piss off our base.

    And on the question of who really wants Obama to be impeached, I believe this provides some much-needed clarity on the subject.

  • Further, “No Corporate Tax” Pat Toomey is back to demonize as only he can (here)…

    Medical need is usually a leading factor for prioritization on the lung transplant waiting list. By that criterion, (12-year-old Sarah Murnaghan) would have likely ranked near the top of the donor list for a new lung. But a federal policy prevented children under age 12 from being considered for a mature lung until all adult candidates in the region were ruled out. This made the likelihood of Sarah receiving a life-saving transplant remote, due to the short supply of child donors.

    Sarah’s family took the fight to social media, to the Department of Health and Human Services, and to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. They asked that children under 12 be considered for adult lung transplants – using the same criteria for adult consideration – if doctors substantiated that an adult transplant would be viable.

    As Sarah herself said, “I’m not going for easy, I’m going for possible.”

    After speaking with Sarah’s mother, Janet, I took Sarah’s cause to then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. I asked the secretary to use her authority to make medical need and suitability, rather than age, the primary criteria in determining how organ donations are prioritized. I asked her to free the transplantation network to help children who needed lung transplants.

    My request was not honored.

    Toomey’s editorial goes on to tell us that the Murnaghan family filed a lawsuit to prevent implementation of the policy that prevented their daughter from receiving an adult lung transplant. The judge ruled in favor of the Murnaghans, and she received a first lung transplant that apparently did not go well, but the second transplant was successful, to the point where she “is now breathing on her own and riding her bike with her brothers and sister. She’s proof that adult organs fitted to size can work in children.”

    Only a ghoul would not take heart at this story, and be glad that Sarah Murnaghan received her successful lung transplant. However, I think the following should be noted from here

    …there’s a lot to think about here, not just the poignancy of a 10-year-old’s struggle. Current transplant policies are set up to ensure fairness — as much as possible in a system with too many patients and too few donors. While some political pundits savaged Sebelius as a one-person “death panel,” they ignore the fact that the transplant rules are designed to be democratic, based on need — to keep the rich and politically connected from cutting into line. The 12-year-old dividing line was enacted not to punish kids, but to help them — to make sure adults don’t dip into the severely limited pool of organs that become available from the deaths of children.

    The Murnaghans’ lawsuit could be viewed as cutting in line, too, except that it raises a question of bias, of eligible children being denied adult organs. In such cases, they argue, children should be rated by the other factors that go into eligibility — severity and nature of the need, length of time on a waiting list, etc.

    The numbers explain why a uniform, transparent system is morally and ethically essential. In Pennsylvania, 14 children and 148 adults are now on the list to receive lungs. Ten of those children and 42 adults have been waiting for more than a year for a call. Lungs are one of the most difficult organs to transplant — especially in children, and pediatric donations are rare. As long as demand outpaces supply, one person’s good fortune will be disappointment for others.

    So, far from criticizing one-time HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Toomey should acknowledge that she was only following established procedures based on need.

    But of course why should Toomey actually give credit to anyone having anything to do with the Affordable Care Law? As noted here, he once complained that his wife supposedly faced difficulties in signing up via an exchange, though Toomey neglected to mention in a radio address that she was eventually able to do so.

    If he didn’t deviate from the wingnut script on this then, why should he do so now?

  • Continuing (and sticking with PA politicians and health care issues), it looks like Governor Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett signed a bill into law called the “Down’s Syndrome Education Act,” (originally sponsored by state senator Randy Vulakovich…guess which party?) which mandates that health care providers recite a script to parents who receive the sad news that their son or daughter will be born with Down’s Syndrome (to be fair, Down’s kids are very loving and creative in their way, but it’s definitely an added burden to parents to take care of them, and it’s silly to pretend that that’s not the case – more here).

    Also, I think the following should be noted from here

    According to the text of the legislation, the materials will include “up-to-date, evidence-based information about Down syndrome,” including “physical, developmental, educational and psychosocial outcomes,” life expectancy, and “any other information the department deems necessary.”

    The bill was signed into law July 18, and will take effect 60 days after that date.

    RH Reality Check asked the Pennsylvania Department of Health for the script materials, but a department spokesperson said the materials don’t yet exist. “The bill was signed on July 18 so their research into the matter has just begun,” the spokesperson told RH Reality Check.

    RH Reality Check also asked which organizations have provided information that will be used to develop the script, but that remains unclear. An early version of the bill lists the Jerome Lejeune Foundation, Parent to Parent of Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania Early Intervention, though those organizations were either removed or crossed out in the final version of the legislation.

    By signing a law mandating that doctors read a script that doesn’t yet exist, there is no way to assess if the materials are biased, or comply with scientific consensus—which is not always the case when it comes to government-mandated physician scripts, especially when the targeted patients are pregnant women.

    So a bill (titled “Chloe’s Law,” in reference to an 11-year-old girl whose father advocated for the policy) was signed into law by Corbett mandating what doctors are supposed to tell their patients in the event that they’re going to be parents of a Down’s child…but the script isn’t ready yet? Really??

    Continuing with rhrealitycheck…

    The Pennsylvania Medical Society, a professional association of doctors in the state, opposes the legislation. Their concerns aren’t just the content of the script; they don’t believe the government should be mandating that physicians read specific materials to patients at all.

    Though a disproportionate number of these bills apply only to doctors when they are treating pregnant women, states have gagged or coerced physician communications in recent years for other politicized public health issues. In 2012, Pennsylvania passed what’s been called the “doctor’s gag rule” in regard to chemicals involved in fracking, the process of extracting natural gas that many experts believe is dangerous. Since 2011, many states have passed laws making it illegal for physicians to ask patients about gun ownership or gun storage, against the “clear recommendation” of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

    Still, a disproportionate number of these types of bills implemented around the country do apply only to doctors treating pregnant women. The most well-known example is medically unnecessary forced ultrasound examinations.

    Such policies have been called “misinformed consent” laws when they require doctors to relay medically inaccurate information to patients. According to the Guttmacher Institute, five states mandate that doctors relay “medically inaccurate claims of a link between induced abortion and breast cancer.” Seven states falsely assert that women experience only negative emotional responses after having an abortion.

    All told, 32 states mandate counseling designed to dissuade a pregnant women from having an abortion.

    One thing I will say in Corbett’s defense is that an extra $40 million was added to the budget for the Department of Public Welfare for people with intellectual disabilities (and Down’s certainly qualifies), so there is a bit of “walking the walk” as opposed to just “talking the talk” going on here. I don’t know, though, whether or not this is part of Corbett’s “Healthy PA” initiative, which is taking a detour and depriving PA residents of the benefits of the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Law (as noted by the author here). Also, this extra $40 million is, I guess, supposed to make up for Corbett’s shortfall of related funding in non-election years, as noted here. However, one would have to be truly naive (and perhaps a bit jaded too I guess) not to see this legislation as a bit of a sop to the “pro-life” crowd (hence the fact that it was linked to the National Catholic Register).

    However, if you’re as fed up with Corbett’s antics on this and other issues as I am, then please click here to do something about it.

    Another thing I want to point out – the link above to the Register article is dated July 21st. I saw the story on the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer on August 19th.

    When it comes to News For Republicans brought to you by Philadelphia’s Conservative Newspaper of Record, I would say that they need to work on the whole “timeliness” thing.

  • Finally, in case you were wondering how long it would take for the wingnuts to politicize the horrible, cowardly murder of reporter James Foley at the hands of these ISIS butchers – well, three, two, one (here)…

    Will the videotaped execution of James Foley shock America out of our dangerous flirtation with isolationism?

    The gruesome beheading of the 40-year-old photojournalist should scream out a warning to any who still doubt: This isn’t just some war out there. It’s about us.

    “I bet they’re asleep in New York; I bet they’re asleep all over America,” says Humphrey Bogart’s Rick Blaine in “Casablanca” as he finally abandons his own neutrality in World War II.

    Oh brother…

    Yes, Rick Blaine does indeed say that in “Casablanca,” but he does so in a remorseful, drunken stupor in the presence of piano player Sam (Dooley Wilson) after long-lost love Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) visits (noted here). The moment is anything but a display of what some might call “American exceptionalism.”

    I consider Rachel Maddow far smarter than I will ever be on this stuff, and she recently pointed out that we should remember that life forms such as these ISIS characters use murder as a tactic. They want us to jump back into that area of the world “both feet first,” if you will, with an increased military presence, so we can utterly bankrupt ourselves when it comes to our military and economic assets, to say nothing of the invaluable treasure of the men and women in our armed forces, risking life and limb at every moment.

    Am I saying not to fight back? Of course not. I’m only saying that we should do it with intelligence, mindful of the rule of law and the international cooperation so completely necessary to defeat entities such as these ISIS mongrels.

    gwb_13-george-w-bush
    After all, I sincerely hope that we haven’t already forgotten what happened the last time we united behind a president who decided to “go with his gut” on the issue of terrorism as well as other matters. Have we?


  • Wednesday Mashup (3/12/14)

    March 12, 2014

    Obama_KGB_CT

  • This graphic appeared in last Sunday’s edition of the Bucks County Courier Times accompanying a typically ridiculous letter on their ultra-wingnutty Op-Ed page accusing President Obama of instituting a “KGB” of sorts in this country; to the extent that I could determine anything logical in the letter, it also mentioned BENGHAZI!!!, the IRS “scandal,” Hillary Clinton, and all the other “dog-whistle” conservative nonsense.

    At first glance, it looks like Obama is depicted as a Nazi, wearing a typical “brown shirt.” However, if you look closer, I suppose you can detect the Obama logo emblazoned where a hammer and sickle might otherwise appear.

    And if that paper ever depicts a Republican politician in that manner, I’ll send them a check for $20.

    And I sincerely believe that I will NEVER, EVER have to make good on that wager (at least it looks like Ben Carson is on board based on this – heh).

  • Next, it looks like, following in the wake of Bernard Goldberg and probably a few other high-profile journos of dubious ability, Sharyl Attkisson is going to bolt from “The Tiffany Network,” with the ever-worn claim of “liberal bias” as an alleged excuse here.

    Gee, you don’t think it could have anything to do with her book that is about to come out echoing a similar theme, could it? Naaah.

    With that in mind, let’s review the following:

  • Attkisson received an award from a “birther” organization at the CPAC freak show two years ago (here – other CBS alums cried foul, for the record…she probably should have quit right then and there).
  • She was also behind an error-ridden report on the “new Solyndras” in January 2012 (here).
  • She was behind another dubious report here, this time on the Affordable Care Law.
  • Here, she allowed Gramps McCain to say that the stimulus wasn’t, in fact, a stimulus package, but a spending package; I realize that that’s just a right-wing talking point that has nothing to do with reality, since you have to spend in a wise, targeted manner to invest in a way that makes a difference, a feat that is apparently impossible for any Republican politician on the national level.
  • For the record, more on Attkission is here.

    I guess all of this is just positioning for a gig at Fix Noise; if so, she’d better have a bottle of Peroxide handy, as well as an ample supply of tight skirts allowing her to show off plenty of leg (that’s how Roger Ailes prefers his “anchor blondes,” after all).

    Update 4/11/14: Yep, she must be vying for a prime-time gig with this (watch out, Hannity!).

  • In addition, this tells us that it is possible that Wisconsin (under Repug governor Scott Walker) is anticipated to have a $1 billion surplus by June 2015 (I read about this at The Weakly Standard…fair is fair).

    Of course, you don’t also hear that the surplus is built on a structural deficit and the state is 28th in job creation nationwide (that and more can be read from here).

    This made me contemplate the potential electoral fortunes of PA’s own Repug governor, and that would be none other than Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett.

    As noted from here, Corbett’s radio ad claims that he’s “saved us over a billion in taxes, reduced the size of state government to its lowest in 50 years, eliminated $43 million in state cars and created 150,000 new private sector jobs.”

    That is a highly deceptive claim. As Factcheck points out…

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Pennsylvania has added a net 138,300 private sector jobs between January 2011, when Corbett took office, and December 2013, the latest figures available. The December figures are projected, and Corbett’s office said it looked at the numbers from January 2011 to November 2013, which show a net gain of 151,100 private sector jobs.

    Corbett’s comments focus on private sector job growth. During his time in office, the number of government jobs has declined by a net 42,000 (most from local government jobs). When looking at all jobs, including government jobs, Pennsylvania has gained 96,300 total jobs under Corbett – a 1.7 percent job growth over three years, ranking the state 46th in total job growth among the states.

    And as far as Corbett’s scheme to make the poor work or else they won’t qualify for Medicaid expansion, he appears to have backtracked on that a bit (probably because even Corbett sees his awful poll numbers), but it all appears to be in a review period based on this Kaiser article (of course – with said “review period” timed so it would have less of an impact on the gubernatorial election).

    If you want to put an end to this nonsense (and why wouldn’t you?), then click here to support Tom Wolf or click here to support Allyson Schwartz, two Democratic candidates for governor, either of who would be better than the incumbent (more is here).

    Update 3/13/14: Good for Allyson Schwartz for this.

  • Further (and turning to The Daily Tucker), I give you the following from here

    An American citizen has been unjustly imprisoned by the communist government of Cuba for over four years. He has lost over 100 lbs, according to his wife, and has pleaded for the U.S. government to come to his aid. He suffers depression as his days consist of being locked in a small cell with two other inmates in a military prison.

    His crime? Alan Gross dared to hand out satellite phones to Cubans whose government prevents them from having significant contact with the outside world. The Obama administration’s failure to secure Gross’s release is unacceptable. The American people should demand the State Department take immediate action to bring this man home.

    Despite attempts by legislators and other U.S. representatives to secure Gross’s release, and appeals to outside forces such as the Vatican, the president has not commissioned an official envoy to Cuba.

    I’m not giving Obama a total pass here, but I would say that the biggest reason for the lack of a Cuba envoy is the fact that our politicians (primarily Obama’s “loyal opposition”) refuse to settle the matter of either trying or releasing the Guantanamo Bay inmates and giving the whole damn thing back to Cuba.

    Or, as former U.S. envoy to Cuba Michael Parmly (from ’05-’08) said here

    The U.S. base is a “historic anomaly” even though the two countries have not had diplomatic relations since 1961, Parmly wrote.

    “The current partisan tensions on the (Capitol) Hill ensure that it would be an uphill climb, but it is the thesis of this paper that a similar bold step, akin to the Panama Canal, is called for regarding Guantanamo,” he said, citing that 1977 U.S. return of the waterway to Panama as a precedent.

    Parmly suggests that, even with the return of Guantanamo to Cuba, the U.S. could still run a jail there, or something. I don’t know how that would be possible, but I think Parmly is on the right track.

    Besides, the Repugs generally go crazy whenever Number 44 (or anyone else who isn’t them, apparently) engages with Cuba in any way. This tells us about their reaction to Obama’s handshake with Cuban President Raul Castro, and this tells us about the outcry over a Beyonce/Jay Z trip to the island.

    So yeah, here’s a wild, crazy thought – try actually working with Number 44 and the envoy appointed last year, Clifford Sloan (here), to try and shut down Guantanamo first. How can we have an envoy to Cuba who isn’t a total figurehead as long as it stays open?

  • Continuing (and turning to Fix Noise), I give you something truly obnoxious from Todd Starnes here

    Matthew Morgan was crumpled on the pavement lying in a pool of blood. Bones had torn through his flesh. His left foot was nearly severed. As he lapsed into and out of consciousness, a jarring thought crossed the Baptist preacher’s mind: he no longer had health insurance.

    “That was one of the first thoughts I had after I got hit,” Matthew told me in a telephone interview from his home in Indianola, Miss.

    Matthew is a bi-vocational pastor. He ministers to two congregations and works a full-time job at the Indianola Pecan House. The 27-year-old is married and has four children. His oldest is five, the youngest is one. And on Feb. 17th he became a victim of ObamaCare.

    If nothing else, this proves that no commentary is too vile for the media wing of the Republican Party (giving these cretins the benefits of the doubt for now when it comes to the facts, but if more is found out, including anything different, I’ll definitely update this post).

    As the story tells us, Morgan and his family live in Mississippi. And according to the story…

    The Morgans tried to sign up for ObamaCare on the Healthcare.gov website, but Matthew said that was a fruitless effort.

    “We couldn’t get on the website,” he said. “That was one of our issues as we shopped around.

    For that, Morgan should blame Repug Governor Phil Bryant, not President Obama. Because, as noted here

    Under the Affordable Care Act, every state has until the end of this year to set up an insurance exchange where legal residents can shop for health coverage. The goal is to help consumers shop for value while forcing insurers to compete in an open marketplace. To make coverage more affordable, the act requires everyone to join the risk pool―and it subsidizes coverage for those who can’t pay full fare. To give states the greatest possible flexibility, the law offers gives them three ways to develop their exchanges. A state can (1) set up an independent exchange that meets national standards, (2) develop an exchange in partnership with the federal government, or (3) stand aside and let the feds handle the job.

    For all their resistance to Obamacare, Mississippi politicians have long favored the first option. With the support of former Gov. Haley Barbour, Mississippi’s Republican insurance commissioner, Mike Chaney, started developing an exchange called “One, Mississippi” before Congress even passed the Affordable Care Act. Since the act took effect three years ago, Chaney has won a federal grant to complete the plan and has even started promoting “One, Mississippi” online as “an easy-to-use, easy-to-understand marketplace for comprehensive medical insurance, where individuals and small businesses can comparison shop for health benefits.”

    But unlike his predecessor, (Bryant) has worked to kill “One, Mississippi” in the cradle. To meet federal standards, state insurance exchanges must link consumers not only to private insurance plans but also to safety net programs―Medicaid for the poor and federally discounted private policies for people earning up to 400% of the federal poverty level. Medicaid falls under the governor’s jurisdiction, so Bryant simply refused to link the program to the “One Mississippi” exchange. Besides cutting the neediest people out of the exchange, his ploy flouted national law, forcing federal officials to reject the whole proposal. “With a lack of support from your Governor and no formal commitment to coordinate from other State agencies,” HHS wrote in in a letter to the insurance commissioner last week, “we do not see a feasible pathway to conditionally approving a State-based Exchange in Mississippi for 2014.”

    Oh, and Starnes ends his column with the following (conflating Morgan with the foul, lying Koch Brothers – nice touch)…

    Matthew Morgan is a victim of ObamaCare – one of many. But Democrats would like you to believe that people like Matthew are liars. Those are Harry Reid’s words.

    I’d rather put my trust in a Baptist preacher than a leader of political party that booed God.

    So much stoo-pid, so little time (here)…

  • Finally (and sticking with health care), this tells us that the U.S. House Repugs finally did something that once seemed unattainable, and that was to vote for the 50th time to repeal the Affordable Care Law.

    And that means that I’m now behind on my count of the 50 U.S. House Repugs I intend to profile in response, so here are the following updates:

    religious-hate-mike-pompeo
    # 48 – Mike Pompeo (KS – 04)

    Actually, after reading more about Pompeo, I realized that I should have profiled him MUCH earlier than now, but better late than never…

  • Here, he was called “The Koch Bros. puppet in the war on children.”
  • And as noted here, that’s not surprising in the least, considering that he made his fortune off a Koch-backed company.
  • His only public policy experience is with a Koch-related outfit (same Think Progress link as above).
  • Also the Kochs were by far the biggest contributors to his 2010 U.S. House campaign (same Think Progress link as above).
  • Pompeo also hired an ex-Koch Bros. lobbyist as his chief of staff (here).
  • Oh, and he made the news recently when he wanted Edward Snowden off the bill at the South-by-Southwest conference here (ummm, SXSW is in Texas, and Pompeo allegedly represents a congressional district in Kansas…???).
  • reindeer-talk-or-high-on-glue
    #49 – Kerry Bentivolio (MI – 11)

    This guy is truly unique, I must admit, ending up in the House seat formerly held by “Mad Thad” McCotter until McCotter ran into that little problem with the petition signatures in his run for governor (here – Bentivolio is a veteran, though; I’ll give him that much).

  • Tim Bos, who was Bentivolio’s Re-Election Field Director, basically took the occasion of the retirement of House Dem John Dingell (the longest-serving member of Congress) to engage in some typical partisan BS here (with Bentivolio trying to pretend that Bos only holds a minor position, or something – please).
  • Bentivolio didn’t hold a single town hall during the August congressional recess last year (noted here…I remember how the wingnuts in these parts went crazy when former rep Patrick Murphy held “tele”-town halls, also employed since by Mikey the Beloved, without a face-to-face presence…I guess rules are for little people, and Democrats of course).
  • He also wants to take funds that should be spent on road repair in Michigan and give them to Republican legislators here (nice).
  • His own brother said Bentivolio was “mentally unbalanced” here (too funny).
  • He called Obama impeachment “a dream come true” here.
  • And just for background info purposes, this tells us that Bentivolio is a former Santa Claus and reindeer farmer (ho ho ho).
  • kelly_pa3

    #50 – Mike Kelly (PA – 03)

    And to round out the list, I thought I would return to PA…

  • Kelly was all about cutting spending until it came to cutting $4 billion in subsidies for the top five oil companies (here) – and did I mention that Kelly’s money comes from car dealerships, and he married a natural gas heiress? (typical)
  • He said here that people would still get their Medicare/Medicaid access and Social Security checks in the event of a government shutdown (uh, no).
  • He also said Obama was a “black president who divides us on race” here (good one).
  • He compared the so-called birth control “mandate” in the Affordable Care Law to Pearl Harbor and 9/11 here (too precious).
  • As noted here, Kelly played the supposed IRS “scandal” for all he thinks it’s worth at a hearing while questioning IRS commissioner Steven Miller (and as I and others have pointed out many, many times, the only politically-oriented group that actually lost its preferred status was a progressive one in California).
  • This tells us that, with the election of David Jolly to a U.S. House seat over Democrat Alex Sink in Florida, the Repugs believe that they’re well-positioned for this fall’s congressional battles, in which they seek to hold onto their leadership in the U.S. House and perhaps (perish the thought) take over the U.S. Senate (even though Jolly won a solidly Republican district).

    I don’t see how we’ll be able to outraise them (love to be wrong), and the 2010 redistricting in their favor continues to pay dividends. So that leaves campaigning on the issues, foremost of which is the Affordable Care Law.

    And the fact that these idiots have voted 50 times to repeal a law that, to date, has allowed about 4.2 million people to sign up for health insurance with solid coverage for manageable premiums, as noted here (aside from the other idiotic Capitol Hill Republican obstruction taking place) should be the biggest issue of all.


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