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 (3/28/13)

    March 28, 2013

  • (I’m trying to play catch-up a bit here – sorry if I’m a bit behind on some of this stuff.)

    Recently, Mikey the Beloved opined as follows (here)…

    In days of old, the filibuster was used as a way to prevent the majority from overriding the minority…

    I honestly don’t know if Mikey is living in a time warp these days or not (days of old?), but as noted here from last September, the Repugs (the minority party in the Senate, let’s not forget – and hopefully it will remain that way after next year) have blocked about 375 bills proposed by the Democrats via the filibuster. That’s not “prevent(ing) the majority from overriding the minority” – that’s called obstruction.

    I will grudgingly cede Fitzpatrick’s point that the so-called “talking” filibuster seemed to be preferred by most of those polled in this country as noted here, though the linked post also tells us that those polled are concerned also about other abuses of Senate process by the minority party (and why the hell is Mikey so damn concerned about the Senate anyway?).

    Mikey also tells us the following…

    Last year, the Administration proposed waiving work requirements for welfare recipients, a misguided move, I believe…

    Yes, it would be misguided, if in fact it had been proposed by the Obama White House. The only problem for Mikey is that it didn’t happen (here)…

    The administration’s welfare waiver initiative would strengthen work requirements by empowering states to innovate on strategies that could move 20 percent more of the caseload into sustainable employment. As the government’s directive announcing the initiative notes, “The Secretary is only interested in approving waivers if the state can explain in a compelling fashion why the proposed approach may be a more efficient or effective means to promote employment entry, retention, advancement, or access to jobs that offer opportunities for earnings and advancement that will allow participants to avoid dependence on government benefits.” Republican and Democratic governors — and even Romney and Paul Ryan — have all promoted flexibility before Obama embraced it. [HHS, 7/12/2012]

    Mikey concludes with the following…

    Sadly, I took to the House floor last week to speak about Harry Fawkes, the late and former chairman of the Bucks County Republican Committee. Harry was selfless and magnanimous; everything he did was for the benefit of our county. He was a friend and mentor to many of us in public life today and often said, “good government is good politics.”

    I tried to observe a bit of respectful silence over the passing of Bucks County Repug Poobah Harry Fawkes (probably more than he would afford us), but I think it is now important to recall the following…

  • Fawkes once lamented a win here by Repug Charley (“I Have A Semi-Open Mind”) Martin over Steve Santarsiero in the Bucks County Commissioners contest because it was too narrow, I guess (with Fawkes claiming that Bucks would turn into “New Jersey West” with a Dem majority of commissioners…typical).
  • Fawkes also encouraged real, honest-to-goodness voter fraud here upon hearing that some PA Repugs registered as Democrats so they could vote for Hillary Clinton in the ’08 primary, after which they would presumably switch their registrations back to Republican again, all in a failed effort to derail Number 44 (creating undue headaches and likely overtime for poll workers who had to process their application forms back and forth…”good government is good politics” – too funny.)
  • Fawkes also accused former PA-08 Congressman Patrick Murphy of “financial improprieties” here with defense contractor (and campaign donor) Kuchera Systems, all because Murphy accepted the donation and returned about $5 grand in earmarks in legislation, one of which benefitted Kuchera (no evidence that Murphy benefitted personally of course – yeah, remember how horrible earmarks were supposed to be, even though they accounted for about one one-hundredths or less of the federal budget?). And as I noted at the time, how ridiculous was it (to say nothing of partisan) to criticize Murphy for this given that Mikey the Beloved, Fawkes’ protégé for jobs both in county and federal government, held onto about $190 grand in donations from political action committees tied to disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff (here)?
  • Mikey has a little caveat at the end that these little “Congressman’s notebook” posts of his will appear in his designated house organ twice a month as a way to “shed some light” on what he is doing. I think PA-08, though, would be better served if he were to spend the time he would use writing these posts instead on legislation that actually addresses the needs of his constituents.

  • Next, I turn to one of Mikey’s Repug playmates In the House (here)…

    A Republican lawmaker is concerned about voter registration questions buried in a draft application to receive benefits under President Obama’s healthcare law.

    Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.), who leads a House subcommittee on oversight, said the questions’ placement could lead some to believe that voter registration is tied to eligibility for the law’s insurance exchanges.

    “While the healthcare law requires that government agencies collect vast information about Americans’ personal lives, it does not give your department an interest in whether individual Americans choose to vote,” Boustany wrote in a letter Monday to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

    At the end of the Hill article, though, we learn the following (“asked and answered,” if you ask me)…

    Many voters register in the process of receiving or renewing their driver’s license, and applications for Medicaid, food stamps and other benefits usually afford the same chance.

    States must offer an opportunity for voter registration through any office that provides public assistance, according to the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.

    Of course, “Birther” Boustany (here), being a typical wingnut, is an old hand at blame avoidance; this tells us that, as a medical doctor, he was the target of three malpractice suits (kind of explains his embrace of “tort reform” – I’m sure this is more “cause an effect” stuff too). He also paid $18,250 to receive an English title that turned out to be bogus (as the 9/09 Daily Kos post tells us), and as noted here, he claimed in September 2007 that “sectarian slayings were down” in Iraq, when quite the opposite was true. And as noted here, “Lord” Boustany opposed a provision in the health care law that dedicated $1.1 billion to researching the effectiveness of medical drugs and procedures; what is so appalling is that Boustany had not, in fact, even bothered to read the text of the provision he opposed.

    I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that Boustany and the rest of the “pay no price, bear no burden” bunch can’t fathom that lower-income voters don’t have the luxury of making multiple trips (in their luxury vehicles, no doubt, possibly with someone else doing the driving) and need the legally-protected option of registering to vote when they apply for federal government services as part of “one-stop shopping.” And I have no doubt that, given the chance, Boustany would eliminate that option for those less fortunate altogether.

    Which makes the task of ensuring voting integrity (as opposed to the straw man of “voter fraud” supposedly by actual voters) all the more important.

  • Continuing, the Daily Caller whines as follows (here)…

    Democratic New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich founded an environmentalist group with a convicted eco-terrorist in the 1990s.

    Heinrich, who will meet with President Obama in the Oval Office Monday to establish the Rio Grande del Norte as a national monument, was elected to the Senate in 2012 with the financial backing of numerous environmentalist groups.

    Prior to his political career, Heinrich c0-founded and chaired the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. David Foreman, a convicted criminal and founder of the radical environmental “warrior society” Earth First!, was among the other co-founders of the group. He also sat on the board during Heinrich’s tenure as chairman.

    Leave it to Tucker Carlson’s Crayon Scribble Page to get the story exactly wrong – this tells us the following…

    Foreman’s arrest was the culmination of three years and two million tax dollars spent in an attempt to frame a few Earth First! activists for conspiring to damage government and private property. The FBI infiltrated Earth First! groups in several states with informants and undercover agent-provocateurs. Over 500 hours of tape recordings of meetings, events and casual conversation had been amassed. Phones had been tapped and homes broken in to. The FBI was doing their best to intimidate radical environmentalists across the country, marking them as potential threat to national security.

    Back in the 1970s the FBI issued a memo to their field offices stating that when attempting to break up dissident groups, the most effective route was to forget about hard intelligence or annoying facts. Simply make a few arrests and hold a public press conference. Charges could later be dropped. It didn’t matter; by the time the news hit the airwaves and was printed up in the local newspapers, the damage had already been done.

    It was the FBI’s assertion that the action stopped by the arrests under that Arizona power line in late May, 1989, was to be a test run for a much grander plot involving (Mark) Davis, (Marc) Baker, (Peg) Millet, and the group’s leader, Dave Foreman. The FBI charged the four with the intent to damage electrical transmission lines that lead to the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons facility in Colorado.

    “The big lie that the FBI pushed at their press conference the day after the arrests was that we were a bunch of terrorists conspiring to cut the power lines into the Palo Verde and Diablo Canyon nuclear facilities in order to cause a nuclear meltdown and threaten public health and safety,” explained Foreman.

    The Counter Punch story also tells us that, in the late 1980s, the FBI launched a unit called THERMCON “in response to an act of sabotage of the Arizona Snowbowl ski lift near Flagstaff, Arizona that occurred in October 1987, allegedly by Davis, Millet and Baker.” One of the THERMCON agents was Michael A. Fain, a fairly inept individual who basically admitted on tape that THERMCON had targeted Foreman (with Fain saying that Foreman “isn’t the guy we need to pop”).

    However, the case proceeded anyway, with this perhaps inevitable result…

    …the case against Foreman, having been deferred almost seven years, was finally reduced in 1996 to a single misdemeanor and a meager $250 in fines. The $2 million the FBI wasted tracking Earth First! over the latter part of the 1980s had only been nominally successful. Yet the alleged ring-leader was still free. Unfortunately, the FBI may have gotten exactly what they wanted all along. Dave Foreman later stepped down as spokesman to Earth First! and inherited quite a different role in the environmental movement — one of invisibility and near silence.

    And to think that Carlson and his ilk have the gall to criticize Foreman for “less-than-level headed statements,” which is a bit hilarious when you also consider this.

  • Finally, it looks like Teahadist nematode Phil Gingrey has entered the race for the soon-to-be-vacant U.S. Senate seat of Saxby Chambliss, as noted here.

    Given that, I think it’s instructive to look at what Gingrey “brings to the table,” as noted here.

    (And by the way, I am hardly gloating on this subject – given the fact that five incumbent U.S. Senate Democrats are stepping down also, as noted here, I would say that we have more than a little bit of work to do in that area.)


  • Friday Mashup (1/18/13)

    January 18, 2013
  • Remember all of the wingnut outrage from the 2012 presidential election over those 59 voting divisions in Philadelphia in which Mitt Romney didn’t get a single vote?

    Remember (from here)…

    Obama_Romney_Fishy

    Well, as it turns out (from here, in a post refuting a lot of other baseless garbage)…

    It’s not mathematically impossible. The 59 districts are in areas of the city that are mainly African American, as the Inquirer reported. And Obama received 93 percent of the black vote nationwide.

    In 2008, Obama received 100 percent of the vote in 57 districts in Philadelphia. So it was not that unusual that something similar happened this time around. In fact, Inquirer reporters had a tough time tracking down any registered Republicans in these areas.

    To be clear, these districts make up a small subset of all of Philadelphia. The 59 that went 100 percent for Obama in 2012 constitute 19,605 votes, just 3 percent of the total votes cast in the city.

    This also concludes that supposed political maven Larry Sabato should shut his pie hole (more stuff on him is here).

    (It should also be noted that this story was buried at philly.com in response to a baseless allegation published at hundreds of wingnut web sites. Which further proves the adage that a lie is halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its pants.)

  • Next, I give you more literary fertilizer from Tucker Carlson’s crayon scribble page (here, trying to undermine Number 44’s recent gun proposals by making him look like he’s “soft on crime” from his prior career in politics)…

    In 1999, State Senator Barack Obama voted “present” on a bill that would require adult prosecution for discharging a gun in or near a school.

    That legislation came as a response to the tragic Columbine High School shooting that year.

    That vote followed a trend for the young lawmaker, whose controversial votes on crime legislation often raised eyebrows.

    A Chicago Tribune editorial even accused Obama of being a “gutless sheep” for missing a vote on crime legislation in late 1999.

    In response to the “present” vote, I’d like to note the following (from here)…

    The vote on the juvenile-justice bill appears to be a case when Mr. Obama, who represented a racially mixed district on the South Side of Chicago, faced pressure. It also occurred about six months before he announced an ultimately unsuccessful campaign against a popular black congressman, Bobby L. Rush.

    State Senator Christine Radogno, a Republican, was a co-sponsor of the bill to let children as young as 15 be prosecuted as adults if charged with committing a crime with a firearm on or near school grounds.

    The measure passed both houses overwhelmingly. In explaining his present vote on the floor of the Senate, Mr. Obama said there was no proof that increasing penalties for young offenders reduced crime, though he acknowledged that the bill had fairly unanimous support.

    “Voting present was a way to satisfy those two competing interests,” Ms. Radogno said in a telephone interview.

    Thom Mannard, director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, said political calculation could have figured in that vote.

    “If he voted a flat-out no,” Mr. Mannard said, “somebody down the road could say Obama took this vote and was soft on crime.”

    Mr. Obama’s aides said he was more concerned about whether the bill would be effective rather than with its political consequences. They did not explain why he did not just vote no.

    And as noted here, the Illinois bill for which then-State Senator Obama missed the vote was called the Safe Neighborhoods Act, and it did indeed contain a gun control measure. And he was indeed called one of a bunch of “gutless sheep” by the Chicago Tribune.

    The reason why he missed the vote is because, while he was vacationing in Hawaii with his family, his daughter Malia came down with a fever and he waited an extra day to come home to make sure she was OK, thus missing the vote (something any self-respecting father would likely do).

    Of course, if we were talking about a reputable publication that followed the most elementary guidelines of Journalism 101, then Carlson would have decided to note that (or even leave the mention of the missed vote out of the story altogether).

  • Continuing, I give you more fun with Daniel Henninger of the Murdoch Street Journal (here, in which Henninger parrots Frank Luntz in saying that the Repugs merely have a “messaging” problem, that’s all – yeah, that’s the ticket)…

    The current Republican class in both houses may be the best in a generation.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!

    In response, this tells us that the current Repug strategy, as opposed to holding the 3,254,738 debates they staged during their riotously funny presidential primary, seems to be to be quiet and let everyone guess what they’re up to (gosh, if this “Republican class” is supposedly “the best in a generation”…well then, wouldn’t they want to be baselessly bragging about that every chance they get?).

    Oh, and this calls to mind this other recent item from Henninger…

    The point of Reaganesque tax-and-spending reform was to cleanse the system. Purge the inevitable, destructive sludge that slows down an economy. The message of Bowles-Simpson and Domenici-Rivlin was that the time to do that again had arrived.

    We’re sticking with the sludge. The progressives are more comfortable there.

    Love and kisses to you too, Danny (and this Media Matters post from 2006 comments on Henninger’s complaint about the use of the filibuster by the U.S. Senate Democrats, who, at that time, were the minority party, a particularly humorous observation given what the Repugs would subsequently do in that regard when they were relegated to the same status).

  • Finally, it looks like the wingnuts are going on a publicity offensive in response to all of the heat the NRA is quite rightly receiving these days with a stunt called “Guns Across America” (yep, I’m serious) as noted here.

    So what do I find when I go to the site’s home page to learn more about them…

    Guns_Across_US_Lorem_Ipsum

    Boy, that Lorem Ipsum sure gets around, huh? : -).

    Update 1/19/13: All idiocy notwithstanding, I hope everyone is OK (here).

    Update 1/21/13: Truly, words fail.


  • Monday Mashup (7/9/12)

    July 10, 2012
  • All class, Tucker – not sure what else I can add to an atrocity like this.
  • Next, I give you the latest propaganda from Investor’s Business Daily (here)…

    Political leaders continue to peddle the snake oil that we can spend our way back to prosperity.

    Many Americans believe President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Keynesian conversion beat back the Great Depression. It’s pure myth. In the 1930s, the United States doubled government outlays relative to GDP. The unemployment rate didn’t fall; instead, it jumped from 3.2% in 1929 to 25.2% in 1933 — an outcome contrary to Keynes’ doctrine.

    I think it’s utterly hilarious that IBD only considers four years of FDR’s entire term of office in its “analysis.” (if you want to read about historical U.S. unemployment rates from 1920 until the present day, click here).

    In response, I give you the following from Professor Krugman (here)…

    …there were big moves in years when nothing much was happening to military spending, notably the slump from 1929 to 1933 and the recovery from 1933 to 1936. But every year in which there was a big spending increase was also a year of strong growth, and the reduction in military spending after World War II was a year of sharp output decline.

    Yes, the unemployment numbers got worse later in the 1930s. However, that was due to a cut in government spending, not an increase (here).

    And if you don’t want to believe me, then believe that noted “Keynesian” Willard Mitt Romney himself, who said here that spending cuts would lead to “recession or depression.”

    If you want to know the real story on the drag on job growth, though, click here (and yes, I know all of this is a recording, but as long as the other side keeps lying through its metaphorical teeth…).

  • Further, Mark Krikorian of Irrational Spew Online takes a shot here at Denise Rich, former wife of fugitive financier (and Bill Clinton and Repug BFF) Marc Rich, for doing the “expat” thing and renouncing her U.S. citizenship (which, apparently, about 1,700 former citizens do a year – color me shocked)…

    I have no quarrel with people who want to emigrate. But to do so for tax reasons (which may or may not be the motivation in this instance) is, as David French put it in an exchange about Eduardo Saverin, “pathetic. Not punishable, but pathetic.”

    Why not punishable? Hey, why do the “half wingnut” when you can go “full on” with the crazy, you know?

    Well, given Krikorian’s staking out of the “America, Love It Or Leave It” ground, you would think that one of his conservative simpatico pals would be all too happy to mete out something that they approximate to justice on this score, wouldn’t you?

    Then please explain the following to me from here

    Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has a status update for Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin: Stop attempting to dodge your taxes by renouncing your U.S. citizenship or never come to back to the U.S. again.

    In September 2011, Saverin relinquished his U.S. citizenship before the company announced its planned initial public offering of stock, which will debut this week. The move was likely a financial one, as he owns an estimated 4 percent of Facebook and stands to make $4 billion when the company goes public. Saverin would reap the benefit of tax savings by becoming a permanent resident of Singapore, which levies no capital gains taxes.

    At a news conference this morning, Sens. Schumer and Bob Casey, D-Pa., will unveil the “Ex-PATRIOT” – “Expatriation Prevention by Abolishing Tax-Related Incentives for Offshore Tenancy” – Act to respond directly to Saverin’s move, which they dub a “scheme” that would “help him duck up to $67 million in taxes.”

    So two Democrats are the ones going after Facebook’s Eduardo Saverin, not, say, “Diaper Dave” Vitter and Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao.

    Well, that must be why Krikorian’s fellow traveler Jeff Jacoby considers Schumer and Casey to be demagogues here, even though Krikorian is the one trying to wax poetic about those leaving the U.S. trying to sever “the mystic chords of memory” (and from the strange political bedfellows department, I give you this).

    (By the way, my thoroughly unscientific and not-grounded-in-economic-facts-and-figures analysis says that we should just leave Saverin alone, people – let’s try fixing real problems instead, such as closing the corporate tax loopholes we currently tolerate, OK?)

  • Finally, I checked in with Pastor Gerson of the WaPo today, and found that he’s still doing a predictable job of opining about matters of almost no consequence (he’s in favor of circumcision because it’s proclaimed in the Old Testament – hey, whatever).

    And I really wouldn’t care if it weren’t for the second paragraph from here

    Along with the Cologne judge (in Germany, who ruled that ritual circumcision is a “crime”), most critics of circumcision also regard it as a violation of individual self-determination, which raises religious-liberty issues larger than a single snip.

    A strain of modern liberalism contends that only individuals and their rights are real in the legal sense — and there is no other acceptable sense. It is the role of the state to defend individual self-determination against oppressive institutions, including religious institutions. Since circumcision is coerced, it is unjust. The same claim might be made — and has been made — of early religious indoctrination of any kind. Liberalism thus leads to an aggressive form of assimilation to the values of the liberal order.

    Really? Then I guess every Jewish person here is just a damn stinkin’, Mumia-lovin’, Kenyan-Muslim-Socialist-supporting tree hugger, huh?

    Basically, I don’t care that much one way or the other – I think it should be left up to the family (though this is certainly important to consider). There are sanitary reasons in favor of it (full disclosure: I had it way back when), but just because a family opts out of it doesn’t mean that they’ve fallen prey to “an aggressive form of (liberal) assimilation.”

    You gotta hand it to Gerson, though, coming up with a new and different way to completely distract us from the issues that truly matter (economy, jobs, environment, civil liberties, Afghanistan, etc.).

    Yep, the guy is sure a cut-up (sorry…couldn’t resist).


  • Tuesday Mashup Part One (8/24/10)

    August 24, 2010

  • 1) Interesting stuff from BoBo in the New York Times today (here – not necessarily good, mind you, just interesting)…

    …in general, the culture places less emphasis on the need to struggle against one’s own mental feebleness. Today’s culture is better in most ways, but in this way it is worse.

    The ensuing mental flabbiness is most evident in politics. Many conservatives declare that Barack Obama is a Muslim because it feels so good to say so. Many liberals would never ask themselves why they were so wrong about the surge in Iraq while George Bush was so right. The question is too uncomfortable.

    Uh, actually the question isn’t “uncomfortable” at all.

    In as much as the surge “worked,” it did so also because of the ethnic cleansing that preceded it and because of the Sunni Awakening, which basically went after al Qaeda operatives in concert with the fine work of our military (and as you might expect, I see no equivalency between this matter and that of Repugs who will never believe Obama is anything but a SCARY MUSLIM SCARY MUSLIM SCARY MUSLIM SCARY MUSLIM!!!).

    And if BoBo needs more proof that Iraq can hardly be called a success, I give you this from one of Brooks’ former colleagues (and a highly unlikely source, I know).

    When that country has a government that actually functions and shares power between its perpetually warring (either politically or for real) factions (and can provide more than a few hours of electricity per day for residents of Baghdad), THEN Brooks can crow about how wonderful Mesopotamia supposedly is now.

  • 2) Next, I give you the latest from Tucker Carlson’s scribble page (here, on a bit of a similar theme)…

    Expect to hear a lot about how much the Iraq war cost in the days ahead from Democrats worried about voter wrath against their unprecedented spending excesses.

    The meme is simple: The economy is in a shambles because of Bush’s economic policies and his war in Iraq. As American Thinker’s Randall Hoven points out, that’s the message being peddled by lefties as diverse as former Clinton political strategist James Carville, economist Joseph Stiglitz, and The Nation’s Washington editor, Christopher Hayes.

    I’ll cut to the chase a bit here and tell you that the right-wing argument is that the “stim” costs more than the Iraq war, so Obama is more at fault for our deficit than Dubya.

    Yes, sadly, I’m serious.

    In response, I give you the following (here, from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)…

    The events and policies that have pushed deficits to these high levels in the near term, however, were largely outside the new Administration’s control. If not for the tax cuts enacted during the presidency of George W. Bush that Congress did not pay for, the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that were initiated during that period, and the effects of the worst economic slump since the Great Depression (including the cost of steps necessary to combat it), we would not be facing these huge deficits in the near term.

    In rather stark terms, Paul Krugman (h/t Atrios) tells us here that, if ever there was a time to borrow like crazy and create all kinds of “shovel ready” infrastructure projects, it is right now, with a 10-year Treasury rate of 2.53 percent.

    But of course, if we do that, the invisible bond vigilantes will descend from the planet Klorp in their spaceships, capture our women and children and enslave us in debt forever, so we won’t (and that explanation is only a shade stupider than what passes for conventional wisdom on this subject these days).

  • 3) Finally, this post from Forbes tells us the following (staying with the economy a bit)…

    No matter how many Obama economists say that stimulus has a positive multiplier, it’s simply not true. Stimulus spending does not stimulate. Because it takes resources from growing sectors of the economy and pushes them to shrinking sectors of the economy– it de-stimulates. It taxes and borrows from good business models to support bad business models.

    It’s simple math. Enlarging government means shrinking the private sector. History is clear: The larger the government share of GDP, the higher the unemployment rate.

    Well, for stimulus spending that supposedly did not “stimulate,” the CBO told us last May that it is projected to create a total of 3.7 million jobs (here – and yes, I know this is familiar territory).

    However, the reason I’m highlighting this story is to counter it with this Daily Kos post, which tells us the following…

    Businesses aren’t creating jobs, and they have no intention of doing so unless they see signs that consumers will again resume spending. Consumers won’t be spending as long as they have nothing or too little to spend. It’s a feedback loop. There is only one way to break it. It has to be the government. The government has to create jobs. Infrastructure. Clean energy. Mass transit. There are plenty of social goods for government to fund, and there are plenty of people who are willing and able to be trained and employed. It has to happen. And only the government can do it.

    I also wanted to highlight the Forbes story for this item…

    But before you think that we have slipped into pessimism, we expect growth to accelerate in the year ahead and we expect the unemployment rate to fall further.

    I think the true Repug “base” just tipped its hand here.

    Anyone who thinks that our august captains of industry in this country are merely impartial observers in our electoral process (particularly after the horrific Citizens United ruling, which opened the proverbial floodgates of corporate campaign donations) must also believe that those zany teabaggers are scholars of Constitutional law.

    They have a vested interest in seeing that the Democrats get trounced this fall (and here is the proof). Whether or not that happens (and let’s do all we can to make sure it doesn’t), they will do what is in their best interest regardless.

    And if that means a bit of a hiring uptick which ends up getting much more than offset by further gains in their wealth (which would tie neatly into the story line that even a modest Repug victory in Congress is a “miracle cure” for the economy), well, lah dee dah, lah dee dah….


  • Friday Mashup Part One (7/30/10)

    July 30, 2010

  • 1) The Philadelphia Inquirer, in a shockingly sensible editorial today, tells us the following (here)…

    Former governors can choose many career paths. Some of them become college presidents. Some go on the lecture circuit.

    And then there’s Tom Ridge, who is set to become a paid shill for the natural-gas drillers swarming his native state.

    The Marcellus Shale Coalition, which represents natural-gas companies, has been negotiating to hire Ridge’s lobbying firm. The industry wants the ex-governor’s help with a campaign to educate the public about the benefits of drilling.

    It’s unclear how much Ridge will be paid, but he doesn’t come cheap. The tiny impoverished nation of Albania, for example, reportedly paid Ridge nearly $500,000 per year to lobby for its membership in NATO.

    Ex-governors are free to enrich themselves however they choose. But there’s something obnoxious about a former governor talking up an industry that poses serious environmental risks, and has already spent millions on lobbying to forestall paying its fair share of state business taxes.

    Yep, I would tend to agree with that, especially since, as noted here about the Josh Fox film “Gasland” on this subject, the industry has already wrought havoc with the lives of many across this country by fouling their water supplies in the process of trying to extract natural gas.

    And I can just picture Ridge trying to implement a color-coded alert system like the one he put into place when he headed up the DHS under Bushco – my guess is that it would go something like this:

    LOW – Water OK for drinking, washing clothes, bathing, etc…enjoy it while you can.

    GUARDED – Slimy film? What slimy film?

    ELEVATED – Hey, let’s not forget that xylene and naphthalene can break down those pesky algae and mineral deposits, OK?

    HIGH – Now I know what happened to the “wastewater” from the EOG Resources blowout.

    SEVERE – Don’t stand too close when you turn on your tap, or else…well, ever see “Ghost Rider”?

    This further amplifies my concerns…the post by Amy Wilson tells us that Stone Energy (which, God help us, could be “the BP of natural gas extraction” as one commenter put it) was granted the first permitted, non-test well approved in the Delaware River Basin, a watershed that serves 15 million people, including the Greater Philadelphia area.

    As far as I’m concerned, we can’t talk seriously in this state about natural gas exploration under we do a hell of a lot more research into this subject than we already have (another fight in the ongoing battle against “disaster capitalism”).

  • 2) Turning to our media, it seems that Christiane Amanpour will debut as host of “This Week” this Sunday morning, replacing Jake Tapper and George Stephanopoulos.

    And as you might expect, Tucker Carlson’s crayon scribble page is already throwing stones at her (here)…

    Her selection for the post, however, has caused a surprisingly potent backlash. Putting aside issues such as the suitability of a foreign affairs reporter for a show on domestic politics and reports of behind-the scenes opposition to her appointment, most of the criticism has concentrated on Amanpour’s political views and her allegedly biased reporting. In one form or another, this kind of criticism has dogged Amanpour for a very long time.

    ZOMG! A well-traveled journalist interjecting informed commentary into news coverage, instead of reading from a teleprompter like a well-coiffed corporate media cipher (wonder how loud and long Edward R. Murrow would have laughed at characters like Carlson in response)?

    And I realize that a conservative screaming about bias is about as newsworthy as a rooster cackling at the sunrise, but still, let’s look at what Carlson is alleging here.

    So he based his charge on a New York Times story here on Amanpour, in which the profile quotes an anonymous “insider” who “has doubts about Amanpour’s commitment to objective journalism”…

    “I have winced at some of what she’s done, at what used to be called advocacy journalism,” (the source) said. “She was sitting in Belgrade when that marketplace massacre happened (in the ‘90s), and she went on the air to say that the Serbs had probably done it. There was no way she could have known that. She was assuming an omniscience which no journalist has.”

    So basically, the charge that Amanpour’s reporting is “biased,” which has thus caused “a surprisingly potent backlash,” is based on a single eyewitness account in a New York Times story.

    And by the way, did I note that the Times story was written in 1994?

    I’ll tell you what, Tucker: if Amanpour opens the show with film footage of George W. Bush morphing into Che Guevara, and the set for the show now contains a poster of Ward Churchill, and she professes her undying love for Al Gore, then talk to us about “bias,” OK?

    Otherwise, shut up and give her a chance.

  • Update 8/2/10: I see Carlson has company (here – h/t Atrios).

  • 3) And speaking of heroic women (I consider them to be that, anyway), Paul Krugman, in yet another spot-on column about why President Obama hasn’t done much to energize his “base” in spite of all of his accomplishments (and no, I don’t think it’s excusable for anyone to sit on his or her hands, as it were, in response – what Dante Atkins sez here in that vein), mentions Frances Perkins, who, as noted here…

    …championed many aspects of the New Deal, including the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Public Works Administration and its successor the Federal Works Agency, and the labor portion of the National Industrial Recovery Act. With The Social Security Act she established unemployment benefits, pensions for the many uncovered elderly Americans, and welfare for the poorest Americans. She pushed to reduce workplace accidents and helped craft laws against child labor. Through the Fair Labor Standards Act, she established the first minimum wage and overtime laws for American workers, and defined the standard 40-hour work week. She formed governmental policy for working with labor unions and helped to alleviate strikes by way of the United States Conciliation Service, Perkins resisted having American women be drafted to serve the military in World War II so that they could enter the civilian workforce in greatly expanded numbers.[2]

    There have been so many hard-won battles by progressives in the name of fair wages and working conditions as well as health and retirement benefits that it’s really difficult to list them all here, though, as you can see above, Perkins was involved in a lot of them.

    And I don’t know of any other secular figure in our public life who is recognized by an organized religion as Perkins is; Wikipedia tells us that she is honored with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) on May 13.


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