Thursday Mashup (4/3/14)

April 3, 2014
  • bill_oreilly6

    I know I’m a little behind on this, but better late than never – I give you Billo the Clown and his latest rant against Dem U.S. House Rep Barbara Lee (here…and of course, I’m going to overlook for now his cowardly language about Lee being a “race hustler,” whatever that is)…

    O’REILLY: Sure, so the right wing, all conservative Americans, we all use, all of us, not any exceptions, we all use, phrases that denigrate African Americans. Do I have that right Congressman? Do I have that right?

    Alright, let’s take a look at Miss Lee’s history. In 2011 she accused the entire Republican party of trying to deny black Americans the right to vote… the entire party. Also in 2011, she released a book that said the Bush administration Hurricane Katrina relief, because mainly blacks were involved. That is, they didn’t want to rescue the blacks, they wanted them to drown, according to this Congresswoman.

    When it comes to denying African Americans the right to vote, Billo is actually correct here – Lee did say that (here). And as noted here, she’s absolutely right (and when it comes to Republicans and race, there’s no apology from Billo or any of his pals for this).

    And when it comes to Katrina, I give you the following quote from Rep. Lee (here)…

    “If ever anyone doubted that there were two Americas, this disaster has made this division clear,” said Representative Barbara Lee, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. “The victims have largely been poor and black. The devastation from Hurricane Katrina only underscores the disastrous consequences of the Administration’s failure to take even the most basic steps to alleviate poverty in the United States.”

    I can’t find anything factual to dispute that (though the notion that Dubya and co. wanted blacks to drown, or something, was put out there by Spike Lee, among others, with Lee making that great documentary to show exactly what happened).

    Continuing with Billo…

    In 2013, she branded Congressman Steve King a racist. She did the same thing to Bill Bennett, President Reagan’s former Secretary of Education. And Miss Lee claims she’s not a race hustler? How about pinhead Congresswoman? You like that better?

    Again, I couldn’t find proof of that claim, but instead, I give you this concerning King and Lee…

    In 2005, King successfully marshaled opposition to naming an Oakland post office after former Oakland city councilwoman and activist Maudelle Shirek because he believed that Shirek was “un-American.” After Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee accused him of McCarthyism, he said, “If Barbara Lee would read the history of Joe McCarthy she would realize that he was a hero for America.”

    On the House floor, King blasted the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus as “separatist groups,” and suggested that a “very, very urban senator, Barack Obama” provided “slavery reparations” through the USDA Pigford II settlement with black farmers.

    During the presidential election, King maintained if Obama won that Al-Qaeda “would be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on Sept. 11 because they would declare victory in this war on terror.”

    Actually, though, Billo is right again about Bennett (shocking, I know), but that is because he said that, if you abort every black baby, the crime rate would go down (here – I hope the repugnance of that remark speaks for itself).

    I guess “racist” is in the eye of the beholder, huh?

    Continuing with Billo…

    Now this is a woman who is in the United States Congress, alright, who is flat out calling people with whom she disagrees, racists, whether they’re her colleagues, or me, or the entire Bush administration, or the entire Republican Party.

    And this woman has the gall, the nerve, to get up there, alright, and then throw out terms like welfare queen. When has the Republican Party ever used that term? When have I ever used that term. The answer is, never, alright?

    So not only is she a pinhead, a race hustler, she’s a liar. That’s who we have representing a California district… Barbara Lee.

    As a literal quote from a Republican politician, be it The Sainted Ronnie R or anyone else, it’s true that the term “welfare queen” cannot be sourced (I was unable to do it anyway). However, I would argue that the context behind the term is far more important than the actual term itself (more is here and here).

    I’ll tell you what – here is a link to about 378 posts from Media Matters that were the result of a search I conducted on the site for the terms “Bill O’Reilly” and “race.” And I’m sure more than a few of them will illustrate better than I can that he has no right to pontificate on that subject in particular.

  • Next, I thought it was a bit surprising to hear that Repug U.S. House Rep Mike Rogers is retiring for a job in right-wing radio, though it appears to be a pretty seamless fit of course (here).

    And with that in mind, I think we should recall the following about the now-departing MI-08 rep:

  • Here is some interesting stuff about Rogers, his wife, and the so-called Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, otherwise known as CIPSA (about how Kristi Rogers would stand to benefit – more here)…and when it comes to CIPSA, here is what you need to know (fortunately, after passing the House of course, it appears to be stuck in the Senate)…

    “It’s basically a privacy nightmare,” says Trevor Timm, a lawyer and activist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “CISPA would allow companies to hand over private data to the government without a warrant, without anonymity, with no judicial review.”

  • Rogers said that those who oppose CIPSA are “teens in their basements,” or something, here (cute).
  • He said here that bombing Iran nuke sites wasn’t an act of war (oh, really?).
  • As noted here, Rogers didn’t share an intelligence notice from the White House in 2011 with fellow U.S. House members, leading to a vote to renew the Patriot Act in which at least 65 House members had “no way of knowing they were reauthorizing the ongoing creation of a database of the phone-based relationships of every American.”
  • He accused Edward Snowden of being a Russian spy here, with no proof whatsoever of course.
  • Rogers said here that the Obama Administration was “Mirandizing” terrorists on the battlefield, or something (yeah, remember that one?), which they weren’t of course, and so what if they were?
  • In conclusion, this tells us that Rogers infamously said, in essence, that you can’t have your privacy violated if you don’t know about it (ugh).

    Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Mike.

  • Further, in the Repugs’ latest effort to find another ideological hero, it looks like U.S. Senate primary candidate Ben Sasse (the “e” is silent, apparently) of Nebraska has emerged as the Teahadist favorite over more mainstream (I guess) Republican candidate Shane Osborn (here).

    (I should back up and note that both Sasse and Osborn are running to win the nomination as the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in the contest to replace Mike Johanns, who is stepping down, with the campaign for November basically serving as a formality – I don’t want to imagine how pathetic it is to live in a place where the election is basically a choice between Republicans, and that is what we have here…love to be wrong.)

    So let’s find out more about Sasse, then, shall we?…

  • As noted here, he basically was for Medicare Part D under Dubya (where Sasse was assistant to HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, who was no prize either) before he was against it.
  • Here, Sasse wanted to move the nation’s capital to Nebraska (huh?).
  • And OF COURSE he was supported by fellow Teahadist Mike Lee (here).
  • As noted here, Sasse said the reason why so many were uninsured wasn’t because of poverty, but “job loss” (he also supports health care reform that makes coverage “portable”…which basically means that, despite what he says, he actually supports the ACA).
  • And as noted from here

    But (Sasse) also repeatedly criticized the president for pushing forward a bill (the ACA) without regard to cost, and without having a serious discussion with the public about what a new entitlement would mean for the nation’s budget deficit.

    It still amazes me (though I guess it shouldn’t by now) how much Republicans absolutely refuse to accept the reality of the cost benefit towards reducing the deficit of the ACA (for starters, take a look at this).

  • Besides, as long as Sasse is going out about how bad the ACA supposedly is for his state…well, maybe he ought to look at this too (from here).

    ACA_Death_Toll_NE

    Update 5/1/14: Didn’t Dr. Dean say that Sasse was supposed to be reasonable or something (here)?

  • Continuing, I give you this from Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds, complaining about how the dreaded “MSM” supposedly hates Republicans (appropriate for April Fools’ Day)…

    California State senator (and, until last week, candidate for secretary of state) Leland Yee was well-known as an anti-gun activist. Then, last week, he was indicted for, yes, conspiring to smuggle guns and rocket launchers between mobsters and terrorists in exchange for massive bribes. Some highlights, as excerpted by San Francisco Magazine.

    Yee told an FBI agent that, in exchange for $2 million in cash, he’d fill a shopping list of weapons, which he took personal responsibility for delivering, according to the indictment. He also allegedly “masterminded” a complex scheme bring illegal weapons into the country, agreeing to “facilitate” a meeting with an illegal arms dealer to arrange for the weapons to be imported via Newark, N.J. In arranging all of this, the indictment said, Yee relied on connections with Filipino terrorist groups who could supply “heavy” weapons, including the Muslim terrorists of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Yee allegedly noted that the Muslim terrorists had no reservations about kidnapping, extortion and murder.

    This all sounds like news. You’ve got charges of huge bribes, rampant hypocrisy, illegal weapons and even a connection with foreign terrorists — and from a leading politician in an important state.

    But — and here’s the part Hollywood would miss — outside of local media like San Francisco magazine, the coverage was surprisingly muted. The New York Times buried the story as a one-paragraph Associated Press report on page A21, with the bland dog-bites-man headline, “California: State Senator Accused of Corruption.” This even though Yee was suspended, along with two others, from the California state senate in light of the indictment.

    L_Yee_HuffPo_0401
    Yeah, don’t you hate it when a story about Dem corruption is totally ignored like that?

    Just to compare and contrast, I did a Google search on “Leland Yee” and “guns” and generated about 11 million hits, which hardly qualifies as ignoring a story as far as I’m concerned (here).

    Then, I did a search for Chris Christie and the 9/11 artifacts he tried to give to NJ mayors to win endorsements in last year’s election (which is far worse in my opinion) and came back with about 1 million hits (here).

    But of course, Reynolds would have us believe that the media hates Republicans.

    Reynolds goes on some more in his screed for “America’s Fish Wrap” about how the Kermit Gosnell stuff supposedly wasn’t covered (Gosnell is the Philadelphia “doctor” who ran an abortion clinic and was convicted on 3 counts of first-degree murder and one count of manslaughter and sentenced to life in prison).

    Oh, please (as noted here, the NY Post, Rupert’s vanity rag, and the Murdoch Street Journal were late to the proverbial party on this, which means that conservatives forfeit the right to complain on this as far as I’m concerned).

    Of course, Reynolds has been a paid propagandist for the right his whole career, such as it is, including this hilarious moment when he predicted doom and gloom for Number 44 in 2010.

  • Finally, I don’t want to devote a lot of time to the latest from “Pastor” Gerson of the WaPo here, in which he reviews the films “Noah” and “God Is Not Dead,” thus giving himself the opportunity to flaunt some imagined moral bona fides once again (I thought this was a good response).

    As long as I’m on the subject, though, I want to take a minute or two and note that your humble narrator recently visited the nearby Regal Cinema in these parts with the teenaged one to watch “Noah” (Sunday, homework done, bored and couldn’t wait for some of the upcoming summer blockbusters, etc.).

    (And by the way, two adult tickets for a Sunday show were $24, and a medium popcorn and two “medium” drinks, with each “medium” cup holding about a half a gallon of soda, were $19. And that was less expensive than playing the concession games afterwards, including pinball, Alien Hunter, etc. Thankfully, he appears to have left that phase behind. Also, I’m going to get into the plot, which I think everybody knows at this point now anyway.)

    So the movie starts at about 8:30 after all the promotions and coming attractions, even though the advertised start time was 8:10 (I must admit, though, that the previews for “Spider-Man 2” and an upcoming movie on James Brown looked pretty cool). And of course, since we’re talking about a pic with Russell Crowe, there has to be a villain in the story. And it turns out to be someone named Tubal Cain, who kills Noah’s (Crowe’s) father when Noah is a boy.

    Well then, Noah grows up, and the next thing you know, he’s married to Jennifer Connelly and they have three boys (I am honestly concerned about her – every time I see her in a role, whether it’s “Dark City” or “The Day The Earth Stood Still,” she looks more and more gaunt; I hope she stocked up on some carbs after she finished making the picture). And they come across a little girl who they take in after a battle, and Connelly looks at her belly wound, and says “She’ll never have children,” which is kind of a miraculous diagnosis in a way I guess.

    Soon enough, they’re trying to escape the bad guys, and they end up journeying to this land where (as it turns out) giant rock people live, and they put Noah and his family into a pit. It turns out that these rock creatures are the “watchers” who were turned to stone by “the creator” when he flipped out after Adam and Eve took a bite of the apple (though the “watchers” were apparently punished for something else). Even though the watchers/rock things threaten mankind with destruction, Noah persuades them to help and they wreak havoc to protect him (I didn’t know somebody stuck “The Book of Michael Bay” into the middle of Genesis).

    And when Noah needs help to build the Ark after seeing visions of a huge flood in dreams, the creatures take care of that too (leave it to “Optimus Shale and the Autorocks” to fulfill Biblical prophecy…and no, I didn’t come up with that one).

    Also, about the little girl with the stab wound…she grows up to be Emma Watson, and Anthony Hopkins (Noah’s father) puts his hand on her wound and she miraculously becomes fertile again (didn’t even need Ron or Harry to wave their wands – tee hee). She also spends just about the entire movie crying also – maybe her agent didn’t get a good deal on the residuals.

    Because it’s a Biblical epic, you can count on a mega-battle scene as Tubal Cain and his minions try to storm the Ark (using spears forged in a fire pit – um, didn’t all of that technology come a few thousand years after this?). Also, I swear I saw one of the minions running around with a helmet and visor, kind of like the one that kept falling in front of Terry Jones’s face in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” And Noah ends up flipping out when he finds out that Ila, Noah’s stepdaughter (Watson) is pregnant, since Noah believes that God tells him that man must not repopulate the earth, and Noah thinks he has to kill Ila’s two infant daughters (Noah eventually relents and lets the babies live, getting so depressed because he thinks that he failed God that he ends up on a massive bender, drinking wine from seashells in a cave – “The Hangover, Part 4” maybe?).

    To sum up, I think that “Noah” is pretty good Hollywood-style entertainment (including some truly ground-breaking CGI stuff going on, though I wonder how that all will translate to the small screen on DVD). But as anything close to a literal interpretation of the Bible (and why would you be looking for that here anyway?), the movie, in my opinion, is all wet (sorry…couldn’t resist).


  • Friday Mashup (9/6/13)

    September 7, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    In response, I give you the following from here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    We may never know.

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

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

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

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

    In response, I give you the following:

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


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


  • Wednesday Mashup (8/14/13)

    August 14, 2013
  • Looks like it’s time to rally around the supposedly oh-so-put-upon American Legislative Exchange Council, as the Murdoch Street Journal tells us here

    The campaign to suppress political speech has found its next tactic, using outrage over Trayvon Martin’s killing in Florida as a hammer. (Last) Wednesday, Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin sent a letter to corporate and nonprofit supporters of the American Legislative Exchange Council, asking them to disclose their positions on stand-your-ground legislation that ALEC supported in Florida in 2005.

    ALEC is a group of state legislators from around the country that promotes center-right reform ideas, mostly on economic issues. It has had success spreading those ideas, which has made it a target of liberal activists trying to cut off its funding.

    Like the Repugs did successfully to ACORN, a left-wing advocacy organization which no longer exists, let’s not forget.

    Enter Mr. Durbin. “Although ALEC does not maintain a public list of corporate members or donors, other public documents indicate that your company funded ALEC at some point during the period between ALEC’s adoption of model ‘stand your ground’ legislation in 2005 and the present day,” Mr. Durbin writes in the letter to groups and companies that have donated to ALEC.

    Since support for ALEC doesn’t “necessarily mean” that it endorses every position taken by the organization, Mr. Durbin continues, he is “seeking clarification” on whether companies that have “funded ALEC’s operations in the past currently support ALEC and the model ‘stand your ground’ legislation.” Oh, and by the way, the letter concludes, he intends to make the responses public at a Congressional hearing in September.

    Translation: If your company engages in political debate or supports conservative groups, he will tie your name to controversies or force you to publicly disclaim positions taken by groups you support. Mr. Durbin knows that if he can drive a wedge between ALEC and its corporate donors, it will help cripple the group’s influence on issues like tax policy and education and remove a significant voice for conservative reform in the states, including Illinois.

    “Conservative reform” being code for gutting clean air and water laws, trying to abolish public school education, disenfranchising poor and minority voters, et cetera…

    The plan also sends up a flare for Mr. Durbin’s allies at agitprop outfits like MoveOn.org, which will then target for public abuse and perhaps boycott the companies whose names Mr. Durbin exposes.

    By the way, isn’t it interesting how the Journal refers to ALEC as a group that “promotes center-right reform ideas” and MoveOn.org is an “agitprop outfit.”

    The strategy was used against Target retail stores in 2010, when MoveOn pushed a boycott because Target donated to a group that in turn donated to a GOP candidate for Minnesota Governor.

    MoveOn “targeted” Target, if you will, because the company did indeed donate $150,000 to a Minnesota politician who opposes gay marriage, but decided not to give a matching amount to pro-gay candidates for balance (here).

    Did Target have a right to do that? Yes. Did MoveOn.org have a right to push its boycott in response? Again, yes.

    To me, it just sounds like democracy in action (which is messy at times, for a reason). Of course, leave it to the Journal to view it as a lefty conspiracy, or something.

    ALEC was targeted last year when former White House aide Van Jones accused the group and its donors of racism during the election-year fight over voter ID laws. Through letters and media smear campaigns…

    Proof?

    …the group succeeded in getting such non-profiles in courage as Coca-Cola, Mars and Kraft to stop donating to ALEC. One result is that ALEC closed its task forces that dealt with non-economic issues.

    That was an effort to minimize the political fallout for members and donors around issues that weren’t ALEC’s core mission, but now Democrats are back for more.

    Oh, so the Journal knows what ALEC’s “core mission” is? Oh, right – “center/right reform ideas”…uh huh. And apparently, that includes widespread lobbying while claiming tax-exempt status, as noted here.

    Mr. Durbin knows that companies making hamburgers or allergy drugs don’t care about stand-your-ground laws. His goal is to scare them with reputational damage by mentioning them in the same breath as Trayvon Martin. This is how the modern left—via the IRS, the Federal Election Commission and now in Congress—tries to stifle political debate.

    Ha and ha (and I would say that writing an editorial like this without noting that the Journal is itself a member of ALEC is an attempt to “stifle political debate” also, as noted here – and of course, lefties were targeted by the IRS too, a fact the Journal choose to ignore).

    Oh, and assuming a bill is ever signed into law containing language directly from an “agitprop outfit” like MoveOn.org (this Michigan “right to work” bill received that treatment, including language that came directly from ALEC), I’m sure the Journal will let me know – yeah, right.

    Update 8/15/13: More here

  • Next, I have a feeling that the other Bush brother is getting a little antsy about all the big media love doled out to fellow Repugs (and potential 2016 presidential candidates) Rand “Fake Ophthalmologist” Paul and Ted “Calgary” Cruz (to say nothing of Governor Bully, of course), and I guess the former FAL guv thought he had to make a splash somehow (here)…

    Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) on Wednesday criticized actor Matt Damon, a vocal public-school advocate, for sending his children to private school.

    Matt Damon Refuses to Enroll Kids in Los Angeles Public Schools. Choice ok for Damon, why not everyone else? http://t.co/yHrTbakeIW

    — Jeb Bush (@JebBush) August 6, 2013

    “I’ll take ‘Desperately Trying To Remain Relevant Somehow’ for 100, Alex!”

    There are a few directions you can go with this, but for now, I’d like to point out the following (here, in which the Daily Kos diarist notes that the “research” in support of school choice is largely bankrolled by the Walton Family, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, and the usual coterie of right-wing propagandists)…

    School choice may, in fact, hold some promises for reforming education since “choice” is central to human agency and empowerment. But the school choice movement and its advocates are the least likely avenues for us ever realizing what school choice has to offer because the advocates are primarily driven by ideology and funding coming from sources that have intentions that have little to do with universal public education for free and empowered people.

    And the growing evidence that corporate charter schools as the latest choice mechanism are causing harm–in terms of segregation and stratification of student populations–is cause for alarm for all people along the spectrum of school reform and school choice. [5]

    If a school choice advocate sticks to the talking-points script and will not acknowledge the overwhelming evidence that out-of-school factors determine student outcomes, that evidence is mounting that choice stratifies schools, and that evidence on how school is delivered (public, private, charter) is mixed and similar among all types of schooling, then that advocate isn’t worth our time and isn’t contributing to a vibrant and open debate that could help move us toward school reform that benefits each student and our larger society.

    And on top of that, this tells us the following…

    Charter school trends vary substantially across different regions of the country. Latinos are under-enrolled in charter schools in some Western states where they comprise the largest share of students. At the same time, a dozen states (including those with high concentrations of Latino students like Arizona and Texas) report that a majority of Latino charter students attend intensely segregated minority schools. Patterns in the West and in a few areas in the South, the two most racially diverse regions of the country, also suggest that charters serve as havens for white flight from public schools. Finally, in the industrial Midwest, more students enroll in charter schools compared to other regions, and midwestern charter programs display high concentrations of black students.

    Since Brown v. Board of Education, public schools have been compelled to address this disparity. That public schools have been inconsistent in this mission is a conclusion that is not in dispute.

    Charter schools on the other hand, — especially those operated by national Charter Management Organizations like KIPP and National Heritage Academies — tend to reinforce geographic racial patterns in their marketing appeals. On their websites and in their printed materials, these charter chains invariably promote their abilities to educate “underserved” communities and “close achievement gaps,” even though there is no evidence that charters in general are any better at this than traditional public schools. In fact, many of them are worse.

    But beyond all of that, this tells us, among other things, that Jeb Bush is criticizing actor Matt Damon for doing something Bush did himself (oh, and last I checked, Matt Damon isn’t a potential candidate for any government office whatsoever).

    However, I’ll let a professed Jeb Bush supporter get the last word here…

    MS_Kelly_J_Bush_0813
    Actually, no, he isn’t.

  • Continuing, it looks like John Lott is all up in arms (pun intended) over keeping the identity of gun owners a secret (here). Funny, but I didn’t see NRA members being so shy when it came to showing off their hardware at a Starbucks in Newtown, CT recently, as noted here (the place where the Sandy Hook school carnage took place last year, for the benefit of anyone who has somehow forgotten that – to the credit of the Starbucks store, it closed early on Friday, but it should not have had to do that).

    (I suddenly realized that, in accordance with the ALEC editorial earlier, the Murdoch Street Journal would probably try to accuse me now of suppressing the legitimate free speech of the NRA…I have a two-word response, and it isn’t “happy birthday,” or “lock n’ load.”)

    I wonder if Lott is trying to hide the identity of gun owners also because, as determined in a 1994 study noted here, male gun owners were 2 ½ times more likely than non-gun owners to be arrested for non-traffic offenses? And by the way, as noted from the same HuffPo link, a 2012 survey found that most guns used in mass shootings were legally purchased – just an FYI.

    Honestly, though, I think Lott and his pals have nothing to worry about (just whipping up phony outrage as usual). From what I’ve read, Gawker and the New York Journal News took so much flak for publishing the names of New York gun owners that I think the chilling effect of that alone would be enough to prevent anyone else from doing it.

  • Further, I give you Mark Hemingway of The Weakly Standard (here)…

    On August 15, 2012, at 10:46 a.m.—one year ago this week—Floyd Lee Corkins entered the lobby of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. He was carrying a backpack that contained 15 Chick-fil-A -sandwiches, a Sig Sauer 9mm pistol, and 100 rounds of ammunition. Corkins has since pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing for the crimes he proceeded to commit. He’s set to spend decades in a prison cell and fade into obscurity.

    But Leo Johnson deserves to be remembered for his heroism that day. The building manager for the Family Research Council was manning the front desk that morning and let Corkins enter the building under the pretense he was a new intern. The video of what happened after that is remarkable.

    After Corkins takes a suspiciously long time rummaging through his bag to produce identification, Johnson cannily stands up and walks around the desk to get a closer look at what Corkins is doing. Corkins bolts upright, gun in hand. Without the slightest hesitation, Johnson rushes Corkins, who fires twice. A bullet shatters Johnson’s left forearm. “And I just couldn’t hear anything, my arm just kind of blew back. So at that point I was thinking: ‘I have to get this gun,’ ” Johnson told The Weekly Standard. “That was my sole focus—I have to get this gun—this guy’s gonna kill me and kill everybody here.”

    From there, Johnson somehow manages to push Corkins across the lobby and pin him against the wall with his bad arm. “I just started punching him as hard as I could, until I could feel his grip loosen,” recalled Johnson. Eventually he takes the gun from Corkins with his wounded arm. Before long, Corkins is subdued on the ground. Corkins now admits that it was his intention to shoot everyone in the building. There’s no question Johnson saved a lot of lives.

    Leo Johnson’s actions were heroic, absolutely, and Hemingway’s piece tells us about all of Johnson’s difficulty with rehabilitation and medical bills, as well as caring for his elderly mother and very elderly grandmother (and yes, Corkins is just another cowardly idiot with a gun).

    But if you think all of this is just a setup to take a shot at us lefties, then you win a commemorative Mexican terrorist doll with the face of Repug U.S. House Rep Louie Gohmert (the commemorative model with the face of Steve King has “calves the size of cantaloupes”).

    Continuing…

    There’s a lot that should be said about Johnson’s heroism, starting with the fact that it hasn’t been widely recognized. Over the last few years, thanks to events such as the Gabrielle Giffords shooting and the George Zimmerman trial, the media have been subjecting us all to a constant and unavoidable national debate about the nexus of politics and violence. This has been unusually perplexing because the media persist in having this debate even when no connection between politics and violence exists.

    Obama_Baby_Teabagger

    Obama_White_Slavery

    Taxpayer_Obama_Oven


    Really?

    The Family Research Council shooting is one of the few inarguable examples of politically motivated violence in recent years, yet looking back a year later, the incident has garnered comparatively little attention. Corkins openly admits he selected the Family Research Council because the Christian organization is one of the leading opponents of gay marriage in the country. He had Chick-fil-A sandwiches in his backpack because the CEO of the fast-food chain was under fire for publicly supporting a biblical definition of marriage. Corkins said he planned to “smother Chick-fil-A sandwiches in [the] faces” of his victims as a political statement. And in case that didn’t make his motivations transparent, right before Corkins shot Leo Johnson, he told him, “I don’t like your politics.”

    Later in the column, Hemingway blames the Southern Poverty Law Center (as if they had anything to do with Corkins and his criminal behavior) for designating the Family Research Council as a “hate group” (with Leo Johnson basically wondering why anyone would do such a thing – making that designation against the FRC, I mean).

    I’ll tell you why – as noted here

    The SPLC gave the Family Research Council the designation due to anti-gay speech from its leaders, which the SPLC says includes calls for gay men and lesbians to be imprisoned.

    Labeling the Family Research Council a hate group puts one of Washington’s most powerful social issues advocates into the company of groups like the Nation of Islam and the now mostly defunct Aryan Nations in the eyes of the SPLC, which tracks 932 active hate groups in the U.S.

    Groups are labeled hate groups by the SPLC — which made a name for itself by using civil lawsuits to severely weaken the KKK and other white supremacist groups — when they “have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics,” according to the group’s website.

    The main offender in the eyes of the SPLC is Peter Sprigg, the FRC’s senior researcher and vocal opponent of the gay rights movement. In May, Sprigg told me that an end to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would lead to more American servicemen receiving unwelcome same-sex fellatio in their sleep, part of a long line of reasoning from Sprigg suggesting that gay men are more likely to be sex offenders than anyone else.

    SPLC Research Director Heidi Beirich told me the FRC is part of a growing list of what the SPLC calls anti-gay groups masking themselves under the guise of conservatism or Christianity.

    “What this really is is a wholesale defamation attack on gays and lesbians,” Beirich said. “Some of the stuff is just as crude if you compare it to, say, the Klan’s racism. But a lot of it’s a little more sophisticated and they try to make it more scientific even though what they’re pushing are falsehoods.”

    I wish Leo Johnson all the best in his recovery, and he is of course entitled to his opinion no matter how much I may disagree. But to use the horrible attack he endured as an excuse to whitewash the FRC’s bigotry is a whole other level of repulsive that I didn’t think I could ever imagine from the wingnutosphere until now.

  • Finally, it looks like Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina (do I need to mention the party?) is shocked, shocked I tell you! to hear Dem Senator and Majority Leader Harry Reid tell us that Republicans don’t like Obama because he’s an African American (here)…


    Yeah, don’t you hate it when somebody makes up stuff like that?

    “Instead of engaging in serious debate about the failed policies of this administration – from the ever-increasing burdens created by the national health care reform plan to the tax and spend approach to economic recovery, along with countless others – Democrats are once again trying to hide behind a smokescreen,” the Republican said.

    Added Scott: “Our country deserves more from those in Washington. I hope Senator Reid will realize the offensive nature of his remarks and apologize to those who disagree with the President’s policies because of one thing – they are hurting hardworking American families.”

    (Just as a reminder, this tells us once again that the “jobs” plan from congressional Republicans won’t create actual, y’know, jobs.)

    And when it comes to “hurting hardworking American families,” Scott has a pretty good (which is to say, bad) track record, as noted here

  • Scott attempted to prevent the families of striking workers from receiving food stamps (including kids).
  • He also tried to hurt the NLRB’s ability to go after law-breaking employers.
  • In addition, he also authored a bill that would have stripped the National Labor Relations Board of its ability to penalize companies that illegally move jobs in retaliation for workers exercising their legal rights.
  • Scott also supported a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that determined that immigrant, Native American and LGBT women should be afforded no protections at all, as noted here.
  • Oh, and Scott also helped slash South Carolina’s HIV/AIDS budget and defended billions in subsidies to Big Oil. He also floated the idea of impeaching Obama over the 2011 debt ceiling nonsense (which led to the sequester, let’s not forget, in which “Man Tan” Boehner said he got “98 percent” of everything he wanted). And while he sat on the Charleston (SC) County Council, he wanted to spend an unlimited amount of money to display the Ten Commandments outside of a government building (all of this awfulness is noted here).

    In conclusion, I’d like to point out that I think Harry Reid is wrong. Scott and his pals don’t oppose Obama because he’s black.

    It’s merely because he’s a Democrat.


  • Friday Mashup (8/2/13)

    August 2, 2013
  • The theme today is “Right-Wing Idiocy on Health Care Reform”- as noted here from The Daily Tucker…

    Republicans on Capitol Hill say the Obama administration is trying to regulate or prevent small companies from providing self-funded insurance for their employees because self-funded insurance plans could be the “Achilles heel” for Obamacare implementation.

    The majority of U.S. employers now offer self-funded insurance plans, in which companies finance employee health plans from their own funds. Many of the companies purchase stop-loss insurance plans from insurance providers. These companies would therefore avoid many Obamacare regulations when the law takes full effect in 2014. The practice of self-funded insurance, which was outright banned in early drafts of Obamacare, represents the “Achilles heel” for Obamacare implementation, according to insiders.

    What a laughable attempt at attribution – and those same “insiders” tell us the following…

    Phyllis Borzi, the Obama administration’s assistant secretary for employee benefits security in the Department of Labor, is a well-known opponent of stop-loss insurance and is suspected of making behind-the-scenes moves to prevent small companies from providing it…

    I would say that that’s a pretty defamatory accusation and could be a real problem if it were actually true; I’d be inclined to believe, though, that Patrick Howley of The Daily Tucker doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about (“according to insiders,” naturally).

    If the Obama Administration hates “stop/loss” insurance so much, then how come the following is true (from an article by Matthew Buettgens and Linda J. Blumberg of The Urban Institute dated November 2012 – sorry, but I’m unable to link to a URL or a .pdf)…

    The Affordable Care Act changes the small-group insurance market substantially beginning in 2014, but most changes do not apply to self-insured plans. This exemption provides an opening for small employers with healthier workers to avoid broader sharing of health care risk, isolating higher-cost groups in the fully insured market. Private stop-loss or reinsurance plans can mediate the risk of self-insurance for small employers, facilitating the decision to self-insure. We simulate small-employer coverage decisions under the law and find that low-risk stop-loss policies lead to higher premiums in the fully insured small-group market. Average single premiums would be up to 25 percent higher, if stop-loss insurance with no additional risk to employers than fully insuring is allowed—an option available in most states absent further government action. Regulation of stop-loss at the federal or state level can, however, prevent such adverse selection and increase stability in small-group insurance coverage.

    So it looks like “stop/loss” in insurance could be further regulated, but Number 44 isn’t trying to go that route.

    Oh, and by the way, I checked the CAP article by John Podesta mentioned by Howley, and I learned the following (here)…

    There are two types of stop-loss insurance: specific, or individual, stop-loss insurance, which protects an employer from a single, unusually high claim from any one employee; and aggregate stop-loss insurance, which limits the total amount the employer must pay each year for all employee health-care claims. In both types, the point at which stop-loss coverage begins is called the “attachment point.” Lower attachment points minimize the employer’s financial risk, and if they are particularly low, they blur the line between self-insured plans and self-funded plans entirely. A self-insured plan with a specific attachment point of $5,000, for example, functions in the same way as a plan with a $5,000 deductible.

    Insurers may also structure stop-loss policies to protect employers from unpredictably high claims that might cause cash-flow issues. Stop-loss policies that limit liability exposure in a single month, for example, or provide immediate reimbursement for claims above the attachment point eliminate this risk.

    Little data exist, however, about the use of stop-loss policies. One survey found that nearly 60 percent of all self-insured firms also have stop-loss insurance. Even less data are available on the type of stop-loss policies and the level of attachment points purchased by self-insured employers. Although survey data suggest that the average individual attachment point for businesses with 5,000 employees or more is about $340,000, similar data for smaller firms are unreliable due to a much smaller sample size.

    The Affordable Care Act requires a study on self-insurance policies used by employers in the large-group market. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Labor, and Department of the Treasury also issued a joint request for information about the use of stop-loss insurance in 2012, asking specifically about stop-loss policies with low attachment points. This data collection and analysis is ongoing.

    So, though it could potentially represent an “Achilles Heel” of sorts to HCR if “stop-loss” policies started popping up all over the place, I would consider that to be highly unlikely, if for no other reason than the fact that large companies would have to start shelling out more and more money to cover their employees just to get out of coverage requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

    And as far as small businesses are concerned – well, if all the employees are comparatively young and fit with minimal health care needs aside from preventive care, you’re may be fine with a stop-loss plan. However (again, from CAP)…

    …once the group’s health status declines, self-funding becomes far more risky and expensive. Stop-loss plans, for example, can raise premiums or refuse to renew coverage once a group becomes less healthy or more expensive to cover. In this case small employers could either drop coverage or return to the fully insured small-group market, adding its less healthy employees to that risk pool.

    And I think the following should also be noted from here (the .pdf should open the viewer, but it’s fussy)…

    Self-insured employers have an increasing cost to control: that of high-dollar medical claims. Just how much healthcare reform will impact those claims is still up to debate. According to an Aon report1, healthcare reform so far has had a .08% to 1.5% impact, depending on the size of the group. That percentage can continue to increase as more provisions go into effect.

    So basically, nobody really has any idea how much self-insured plans will be affected by the Affordable Care Act.

    But then again, to expect anything close to serious journalism from Patrick Howley based on this (in which Howley tried to egg on antiwar protestors at the Smithsonian Institution to make them look bad, something typical of James O’Keefe) is a delusional notion anyway.

  • Next, Scott Gottlieb recently opined as follows at the Murdoch Street Journal (here, on the subject of the expansion of the 340B program as part of health care reform – he explains, somewhat)…

    Under 340B, eligible hospitals are allowed to buy drugs from drug companies at forced discounts of 25% to 50%. The hospitals can then bill government and private insurers for the full cost of the drugs, pocketing the spread. The arrangement gives 340B-qualified hospitals a big incentive to search for patients and prescribe lots of drugs. The costlier the drugs, the bigger the spread. So expensive cancer drugs are especially appealing.

    The original legislation creating 340B envisioned that only about 90 hospitals that care for a “disproportionate share” of indigent patients would qualify. But remember, this is a well-intentioned government program handing out money, with the usual result: By 2011, 1,675 hospitals, or a third of all hospitals in the country, were 340B-qualified.

    Call me a filthy, unkempt liberal blogger, but could the expansion actually be due to the fact that more and more hospitals are seeing more and more indigent cases?

    To quote Steve Martin, “Naaaaahhhhh!”

    Of course this has to be another Obama “scandal” where insurers and drug companies are seeing a financial hit, with more and more hospitals “pocketing the spread.” How silly of me not to realize it! All Hail Rush, Sean Hannity and Falafel Bill! And by the way, BENGHAZI!!!

    OK, I’ll stop (and I love the demagoguery about “a well-intentioned government program handing out money,” of course).

    Gottlieb also laments the likelihood that more patients will be treated at hospitals or outpatient facilities than doctor’s offices. Well, suppose we’re talking about a population with easier access to the former than the latter? Or are they invisible as far as the Journal is concerned?

    And this excerpt was a bit of a head-scratcher also…

    Even flourishing hospitals like the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Duke University Health System feed off the subsidies. In 2011, Duke bought $54.8 million in drugs from the discount program and sold them to patients for $131.8 million, for a profit of $76.9 million—a substantial portion of the health system’s 2011 operating profit of $190 million. Only one in 20 patients served by Duke’s 340B pharmacy is uninsured. The rest have their prescription costs covered by Medicare, Medicaid or commercial insurers.

    Now ObamaCare is encouraging even wider 340B abuses.

    Sooo…as far as Gottlieb is concerned, it’s “abuse” for a population of probably poor and elderly individuals to qualify for the 340B drug discount if they already are covered under Medicare or Medicaid? Has Gottlieb tried to price drugs lately for people living on fixed incomes?

    And I’m sorry, but as far as I’m concerned, the “operating profit” of a medical institution is secondary to me versus how effective they are at providing patient care.

    Also…

    The regulatory loosening has led to a proliferation of abuse. The Health Resources and Services Administration, the federal agency that (nominally) oversees the program, recently audited 340B-eligible hospitals. The agency found “adverse findings” (like discounted drugs diverted or dispensed to ineligible patients) with almost half of the 34 institutions the agency examined.

    Didn’t Gottlieb say earlier that, as of 2011, 1,675 hospitals were covered under 340B? So, out of that total, the HSA reported on 34 institutions (and let’s say that “almost half” of 34 is 16, of the total institutions that were examined; those were the ones with “adverse findings”).

    So what percentage of 1,675 is 34? Well, that would be 0.020 percent (maybe not much of a sample, but then again, not much of a reason to carry on about alleged wrongdoing either).

    But of course Gottlieb is no stranger to propagandizing on this issue (this link takes us to a post where he claimed that the individual market for health care would be eliminated outside of the health care exchanges – if I were Politifact, I would rate that as a “pants on fire” claim).


  • Finally, I’ve been meaning to follow up on this item concerning our wet noodle U.S. House rep, so I guess I’d better get to it…

    I expected (The American College of Physicians) Leadership Day to be inspiring, empowering, and a way for me to share my thoughts on health reform with our lawmakers. However, the meeting with my Congressman this past June exceeded all of my expectations. Not only was I able to advocate for patients and physicians, but I also discovered an incredible opportunity in my hometown of Bensalem, Pennsylvania.

    As a constituent of the 8th district of Pennsylvania, I am represented by Congressman Michael Fitzpatrick. On Leadership Day, other members of the Pennsylvania delegation and I were able to speak to the Congressman directly about key ACP issues. Currently, I am a fourth-year medical student at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and am planning to pursue a career in primary care. I told Congressman Fitzpatrick about my passion for public health, community health, and working in underserved communities, and how important it was to expand federal health programs and GME funding for primary care programs. The Congressman was thoughtful and listened—and then asked if I knew about the BCHIP clinic. BCHIP, or the Bucks County Health Improvement Partnership, is the largest free clinic serving uninsured, low-income adults in Bucks County, PA. Founded in 1993 and located in Bensalem, PA, it is locally driven and provides care to over 2,000 adults every year. I was immediately interested in learning more. And then, Congressman Fitzpatrick suggested that we visit the clinic together so I could get a closer look at community health in my own community.

    The article is generally complimentary towards Fitzpatrick, and that’s fine. Any means of providing care to people who otherwise wouldn’t get it is a worthy goal.

    However, here is my concern – suppose you run into complications?

    Because, as a friend of mine pointed out, if you have, say, cancer, you may get a referral to a specialist at a clinic, but that may not necessarily lead to care (suppose the referral doesn’t take your insurance? Suppose you don’t have insurance?). Suppose further that the clinic cannot perform a colonoscopy? And suppose even further that the clinic cannot provide OB/GYN care for women, including pre-natal care and/or pap screens?

    Nope…as good as the free clinic is, it often isn’t a “one-stop shop” for health care, nor can it be that in all cases. In the event of the circumstances I noted above, Planned Parenthood (which Mikey and his pals want to defund) would be needed, as well as the legally mandated provisions of the Affordable Care Act (same thing).

    And with all this in mind, I give you the following from here (based on this story)…

    Congressman Fitzpatrick has established his opposition to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) aka Obamacare and he has spoken consistently against “government control” of health care. In his letter printed June 17 he bemoaned the “army of bureaucrats implementing regulations” under (HHS) Secretary (Kathleen) Sebelius for not being bound by the Hippocratic Oath. He said if they were, “regulations would not exist denying a 10-year-old child a life saving operation.” Fact is, the role of the Department of Health and Human Services is to protect the citizens from harm, all 350 million of us.

    Secretary Sebelius, a politically appointed bureaucrat, was asked by Sen. Pat Toomey, a politician, not a doctor, to alter the transplant rules in a singular independent act. It would defy years of scientific and medical findings and regulations created by medical experts, scientists, doctors, surgeons, and ethicists.

    Fitzpatrick denied that asking Sebelius to alter the regulations was asking for interference when, in my view, that is exactly what it was. He is attempting to connect those “regulations” to Sebelius and eventually the ACA. In a June 17th letter to the newspaper, he condemned a federal bureaucrat for not making a medical decision while saying a federal agency should not be evaluating patients, which is contradictory. At a town hall meeting, he seemed to reserve the right to tell millions of people that if they need a doctor go find a free clinic or charity, when he told a questioner without insurance to do just that.

    Those regulations are not hers to alter; they are hers to administer. There is a deliberate and complicated process in procuring organs and selecting candidates that seeks to ensure fairness. Sadly, because of a finite supply of organs when a patient gets a transplant another will die waiting and that includes mothers and fathers of 10 year old children.

    Fitzpatrick knows the facts, but used the 10 year old child to attack the ACA by saying Sebelius’ action “is an indication of government takeover of healthcare and the ACA exacerbates the situation”. There it is, his real agenda, the continued attack on the ACA.

    It’s nice that Mikey has advocated on behalf of free clinics so those who might not otherwise obtain any care at all would receive it. But his continued intransigence and opposition to the Affordable Care Act is beyond a joke at this point. And using the life-endangering circumstances of a 10-year-old girl in furtherance of this unholy goal is a new low, even for him.


    Friday Mashup (6/21/13)

    June 21, 2013
  • I give you The Daily Tucker here

    Republican lawmakers renewed their push to scrap the federal estate tax this week, saying the move would create jobs and keep family businesses afloat.

    South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune and Texas Republican Rep. Kevin Brady officially re-introduced the Death Tax Repeal Act. The bill would immediately eliminate the estate tax and repeal the generation-skipping transfer tax.

    When I say that the Repugs keep coming back over and over and over with their bad ideas regardless of how truly bad they are, no matter how many times they keep going up in smoke (on the oft-chance that maybe, just maybe, this time will be different, and sometimes it is), this is exactly what I mean (and by the way, when the Repugs talk about a “family business,” here is the standard they use).

    For, as noted here from a couple of years ago…

    Estates larger than $5 million potentially owe estate tax in 2011. Only about 1 in 800 deaths will result in a taxable estate; 99.9 percent of deaths trigger no estate tax. The estate tax will raise over $10 billion from 3,300 deaths in 2011. [Tax Policy Center, accessed 6/29/11]

    (Preliminary estimates from the Tax Policy Center) indicate that the proposed estate tax would hit only 50 “Small Farms And Businesses,” defined as “[e]states for which farms and business assets comprise at least half of gross estate and total $5 million or less.” For these estates, the average tax rate is estimated to be 7.4 percent. For all estates affected by the tax, the average tax rate is estimated to be 14.4 percent.

    This tells us the following from last November…

    In short, only 20 new small farm and business estates would be affected by President Obama’s proposal (to increase the estate tax). The same report notes the effective tax rate is far lower than the headline 45 percent rate due to “special provisions targeted to farm and business estates.” Taking such provisions into account yields an estimated effective tax rate of 11.6 percent, which is lower than the current capital gains rate.

    And just for emphasis, Think Progress tells us the following from here (repeating some of the previously linked info)…

    Only the very richest households in the country ever have to pay the estate tax, since, (as of Nov. 2011), an estate must be worth more than $5 million (or $10 million for a couple) to pay any estate tax at all.…more than half of the estate tax (was) paid by the richest 0.1 percent of households.

    Oh, but Thune tells us that Repug econ guru Douglas Holtz-Eakin says that repealing the estate tax would create 1.5 million jobs, even though the study behind that claim was called “seriously flawed” by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (here).

    Gee, that doesn’t sound “optimistic, uplifting and nice” as BoBo once noted about “pretty boy” Thune (second bullet from here).

  • Next, I give you another metaphorical piñata that the Repugs like to whack at from time to time (here)…

    A sort of domestic Peace Corps, AmeriCorps was created in 1993 to place adult Americans in community service with nonprofit and public agencies, especially in environmental protection, health, education and public safety. President Clinton declared that AmeriCorps is “living proof” that “if we hold hands and believe we’re going into the future together, we can change anything we want to change.” President George W. Bush was a big supporter, too.

    Yeah, Dubya was such a “big supporter” that he just about wrecked the program; as noted here from a 2003 Slate article…

    The maiming of AmeriCorps infuriates its supporters. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Evan Bayh, D-Ind., (co-authors of another national service bill) have criticized the president for backing away from AmeriCorps when continued support became inconvenient. Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry recently trotted out his own plan for a massive increase in national service, suggesting AmeriCorps’ promise and failings could become a campaign issue in 2004. But if AmeriCorps can’t make itself accountable to Congress, national service may go the way of Lyndon Johnson’s “community-action”-minded War on Poverty and Richard Nixon’s Comprehensive Employment and Training Act, a jobs program abused by the states and killed off by Ronald Reagan. The graveyard of American social policy is abundant with similar decentralized programs that were killed off by horror stories of incompetence and mismanagement.

    Continuing…

    But the halo on AmeriCorps exists primarily because few people have examined what the corps and its members are really up to. The grandiose achievements of AmeriCorps have always been a statistical illusion, full of impressive-looking numbers of people and causes served, and yet—as the Government Accountability Office has pointed out—often missing evidence of real accomplishment.

    Consider the following recent activities:

    • In April, AmeriCorps recruits in Tuscumbia, Mo., released 70 blue balloons outside the county courthouse to draw attention to the plight of abused children.
    • In March, Providence, R.I., AmeriCorps members at the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence hosted a hip hop/poetry competition.
    • Members of a Nevada AmeriCorps program busy themselves these days by encouraging local residents to drink tap water and watch out for bears (“bear awareness”).
    • AmeriCorps members in Austin, Texas, hosted a trivia night in April at a local bar called Cheer Up Charlie’s to whip up enthusiasm for public service.

    There’s a lot of other anecdotal stuff listed here where James Bovard of the Murdoch Street Journal doesn’t bother to cite his sources, so I won’t try and do more of his homework for him – don’t know how much is actual fact vs. urban legend (he mentions something about puppet shows too).

    Continuing…

    During the Clinton era, scandals erupted after AmeriCorps bankrolled the left-wing community-organizing group Acorn and projects that engaged in blatant political campaigning. Federal law bans using tax dollars for advocacy. In 2011, a report prepared by auditors in the office of the inspector general with oversight of AmeriCorps criticized its management for policies that “leave no meaningful recourse against a sponsor that misuses [AmeriCorps] personnel.”

    I couldn’t find any citation from a reputable news organization for the Clinton/AmeriCorps/ACORN stuff, and again, Bovard didn’t provide one himself. And I’m mystified by the inclusion of the other quote, since it really isn’t a reflection of AmeriCorps as an organization or any AmeriCorps workers.

    Oh, and speaking of Number 42, when he wanted to build support for AmeriCorps when it faced a budget cut from congressional Republicans (sound familiar?), who did he go to for help? Why, none other than one-time Massachusetts Governor Willard Mitt Romney, who offered his support as noted here.

    Continuing…

    For most of Mr. Obama’s first term and until last year, AmeriCorps went unsupervised by a permanent inspector general at its oversight agency, the Corporation for National and Community Service. In June 2009, the administration fired IG Gerald Walpin after Mr. Walpin refused to back down from a report condemning a prominent Obama supporter, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, for misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars in AmeriCorps grants for his St. HOPE Academy. Mr. Walpin also stirred hostility with a report showing that the AmeriCorps role in one of its largest programs—the Teaching Fellows program at the City University of New York—failed to produce any positive results.

    There were other issues going on with Walpin, by the way, as noted here, namely that Walpin and his staff “did not include” or “disclose” relevant information regarding the case to (the office of U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California Lawrence Brown); that Walpin repeatedly discussed the case in the press after being advised “under no circumstance was he to communicate with the media about a matter under investigation”; and that Walpin’s “actions were hindering our investigation and handling of this matter.”

    Continuing…

    When it comes to measuring results, however, the program has always relied on Soviet-style accounting—adding up labor inputs and proclaiming victory. The Government Accountability Office criticized AmeriCorps in 2000 for this reason and rapped the organization again in 2010 for using performance measures that “do not demonstrate results” and are “poorly aligned” with stated goals. The GAO warned that the self-reported data from grant recipients was unverified and unreliable.

    Believe it or not, there’s a bit of truth to the “Soviet-style accounting” charge (only a bit, though). As noted here from the 2003 Slate article…

    The lack of basic information about how many members AmeriCorps had can be blamed on the agency’s decentralized management system and grant-giving authority. This was by design. Clinton had devolved control to state commissions, whose directors are appointed by governors, in order to win the program support from the governors. With cash rolling out to the states in massive annual increases, what was not to like? (Leslie Lenkowsky, named to run AmeriCorps under Dubya) favored such decentralization and wanted to devolve management still further. In a Weekly Standard article published a few months before he was named to run the corporation, Lenkowsky argued that AmeriCorps should be “voucherized,” with payments going directly to grantees rather than to the organizations that doled out the grants. He noted that this scheme might “dismay the auditors” but shrugged that worry off. Once in office, Lenkowsky never implemented his voucher scheme but remained faithfully indifferent to accounting concerns.

    AmeriCorps has garnered its share of wingnut umbrage over the years, including here, from Glenn Beck and Roger Ailes, of course, about how AmeriCorps is really a front for a civilian national security force, an army of Obama community organizers, or something. Prior to that, Pam Geller said that Obama is recruiting an army of 8-year-olds through AmeriCorps here. And Beck, prior to that, claimed that a NY law allowing convicts to work for non-profits had a tie to AmeriCorps (and ACORN!!!, of course) here.

    Here is my question, though: if AmeriCorps is supposedly so awful, then why did “Moon Unit” Bachmann allow her son to go to work for Teach for America (TFA), which is part of AmeriCorps, as noted here (and a commendable action by her son, truth be told).

    And as noted from here (towards the end of the .pdf), AmeriCorps is responsible for the following (from 1994-1996 alone)…

    Education

    • Taught 381,592 students in Head Start, kindergarten, and grades one to 12.
    • Tutored, mentored, or counseled 212,239 students in grades one to 12.
    • Organized speakers, presentations, field trips, or service-learning activities for 672,981 students.
    • Recruited, trained, or placed 145,168 peer tutors and community volunteers.
    • Developed curricula, assembled library collections, or provided instructional materials for 717,640 students.
    • Performed educational case management or conducted home visits for 138,151 students and their families.
    • Taught parenting skills workshops, GED classes, or job counseling workshops for 58,363 parents.

    Health and Human Needs

    • Constructed, rehabilitated, or renovated 1,485 low-income houses and provided housing assistance for an additional 22,843 people. Completed 60 new homeless shelters benefiting 1,422 people and placed an additional 18,687 homeless people in permanent or transitional housing.
    • Organized or packed 3,302,961 pounds of food and clothing, benefiting 591,769 recently homeless people.
    • Organized or staffed community health fairs attended by 1,505,773 people.
    • Provided child care for 42,926 children and their families.
    • Immunized 30,724 children and 4,833 adults.
    • Screened, counseled, or provided health information and services to 1,384,612 children and adults.
    • Recruited and coordinated 64,881 volunteers in support of these health and human needs projects.

    Environmental and Neighborhood Restoration

    • Rehabilitated or repaired 315 community buildings and 1,838 miles of park trails and roads.
    • Planted 22,455 trees in urban areas or rural towns and 80,727 acres of trees in parklands.
    • Restored or conserved 3,061 miles of rivers, beaches, and fish habitats and 90,729 acres or public lands and fowl habitat.
    • Repaired 266 dams or other flood-control systems and responded to 494 forest fires and search-and-rescue missions.

    Public Safety

    • Organized 887 neighborhood watches, recruited 9,511 child or senior escorts, and started 282 community policing programs.
    • Organized or conducted after-school sports and violence-avoidance activities for 93,169 students.
    • Conducted 3,371 conflict mediation and resolution programs.
    • Provided career development and community integration services for 5,346 adjudicated youth and 906 adults on probation.
    • Counseled 29,352 individuals about substance abuse and 74,421 individuals about victims’ rights or child abuse prevention.
    • Worked with 851 community groups to establish better relations and improve communication across racial and ethnic lines.

    I would say that that’s just a little more substantial than whining over puppet shows.

  • Finally, in their never-ending search for a person of color to bolster the claim that they aren’t just a party of elderly, disgruntled white people who are good at not much more than creating a lot of noise for no good reason, it appears that what was once called the “party of Lincoln” has settled on somebody else as the “flavor of the month.”

    And that person’s name is Elbert Guillory (and if your immediate reaction is “who?,” then you win a free commemorate crying towel used by John Boehner and Glenn Beck).

    The Daily Tucker explains here

    Elbert Guillory, an African-American state senator from Louisiana, recently became a Republican. And one week later, he released a video explaining his move — and urging others to join him in “abandoning the government plantation and the party of disappointment.”

    Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Guillory is a guy who believes it’s important that he announce to the entire world that he, formerly a Democrat, is now a Republican. Yawn.

    As noted here from last month…

    During debate Wednesday on a bill to expand Medicaid coverage in Louisiana, Sen. Karen Carter Peterson said fellow lawmakers had told her they based their opposition to the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, on the race of the president and not on policy.

    “The accusations of racism this week certainly helped push me over the edge. I thought that they were over the edge,” Guillory said in an interview Friday. “It just showed me just how far out of tune I was, I am, with the Democrat Party.”

    “Democrat” Party – bless Guillory’s pointed little newly Republican head. And by the way, suppose what Karen Carter Peterson said was actually true?

    Basically, Guillory has been, at best, a “lite” version of an actual Democrat for some time – as noted from here

    (Louisiana Gov. Bobby “Don’t Call Me Piyush”) Jindal’s proposal—through Guillory’s bills—to move from a defined benefit to a defined contribution pension plan (for state retirees) was a virtual clone of the “Defined-Contribution Retirement Act” model bill as drafted by ALEC at its New Orleans national convention last August, Guillory’s claims in his email to LouisianaVoice notwithstanding.

    But that was just one of the bills proposed by ALEC.

    A copy of ALEC’s complete proposed retirement reform legislation was obtained by Common Cause of Washington, D.C., which filed Freedom of Information Act requests for ALEC records.

    The ALEC proposals and those of Guillory in the Senate and Rep. Kevin Pearson (R-Slidell) in the House are nearly identical in most aspects.

    So, all things considered, it’s a little difficult to buy into Guillory’s braggadocio about his committee’s “hard work, no buyout by ALEC.” Nor do we agree that a “serious fiscal problem” was addressed in a “careful, responsible manner.”

    There’s a lot more in the Louisiana Voice post about Guillory, including his attempt to basically create two different categories of state workers: one for policemen, firemen and teachers (male pronoun meant to be all-inclusive, by the way), and the other category for every other type of state worker who supposedly doesn’t face “hazards” on the job.

    I suppose every politician out there is an opportunist of one type or another. The standard I use, though, is how often his or her interests end up coinciding with my own. And far from some newly-minted voice of sanity for the rapidly-declining-by-their-own-hand major political party in this country, Guillory appears to be nothing but someone peddling the same old snake oil in a slightly new bottle.

    Keep trying, Repugs (and I know you will).


  • Spy The Beloved Country – 2013 Edition

    June 19, 2013


    Still catching up on some stuff a bit – the following appeared last week in the Murdoch Street Journal (here)…

    Once again, the tanks-have-rolled left and the black-helicopters right have joined together in howls of protest. They were set off by last week’s revelations that the U.S. government has been collecting data that disclose the fact, but not the content, of electronic communications within the country, as well as some content data outside the U.S. that does not focus on American citizens. Once again, the outrage of the left-right coalition is misdirected.

    Libertarian Republicans and liberal—progressive, if you prefer—Democrats see the specter of George Orwell’s “1984” in what they claim is pervasive and unlawful government spying. These same groups summoned “1984” in 2001 after passage of the Patriot Act, in 2008 after renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, and many times in between and since.

    Oh, by the way, the author of this “trust your leaders,” feel-good pabulum on behalf of the “one percent” is Michael Mukasey, former Bushco attorney general. And for Mukasey to blame liberals for invoking “1984” is darkly humorous when you consider that he once said the following from here

    “I think one would have to concede that the USA Patriot Act has an awkward, even Orwellian, name, which is one of those Washington acronyms derived by calling the law ‘Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Interrupt and Obstruct Terrorism.’ You get the impression they started with the acronym first, and then offered a $50 savings bond to whoever could come up with a name to fit. Without offering my view on any case or controversy, current or future, I think that that awkward name may very well be the worst thing about the statute.”

    (The end of this post contains a link to a prior post from yours truly where Mukasey definitely supports the Patriot Act, by the way.)

    Continuing…

    Regrettably, those best positioned to defend such surveillance programs are least likely to do so out of obvious security concerns. Without getting into detail here, intelligence agencies, with court authorization, have been collecting data in an effort that is neither pervasive nor unlawful. As to the data culled within the U.S., the purpose is to permit analysts to map relationships between and among Islamist fanatics.

    For example, it would be helpful to know who communicated with the Tsarnaev brothers, who those people were in touch with, and whether there are overlapping circles that would reveal others bent on killing and maiming Americans—sort of a terrorist Venn diagram. Once these relationships are disclosed, information can be developed that would allow a court to give permission to monitor the content of communications.

    In response, this tells us the following (#2 on the list)…

    NSA Deputy Director John Inglis said that 22 NSA officials are authorized to approve requests to query an agency database that contains the cellphone metadata of American citizens. (Metadata includes the numbers of incoming and outgoing calls, the date and time the calls took place, and their duration.) Deputy AG Cole also said that all queries of this database must be documented and can be subject to audits. Cole also said that the NSA does not have to get separate Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) approval for each query; instead, the agency merely has to file a monthly report with the court on how many times the database was queried, and how many of those searches targeted the phone records of Americans.

    This, to me, is another holdover from the rancid Bushco regime. There appears to be, more or less, retroactive judicial review going on here. If the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is going to be notified after surveillance has taken place, what the hell is the point of having “judicial review” at all?

    And yes, I know this utterly awful state of affairs was codified into law by a Democratic congress in 2008, one of the most cowardly acts I have ever seen.

    Continuing…

    As to monitoring content abroad, the utility is obvious. At least one conspiracy—headed by Najibullah Zazi and intended to maim and kill New York City subway riders—was disclosed through such monitoring and headed off. Zazi, arrested in 2009, pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing.

    An opposing point of view on that claim is here, by the way.

    Continuing…

    Because intelligence does not arrive in orderly chronological ranks, and getting useful data is an incremental process that often requires matching information gathered in the past with more current data, storing the information is essential. But, say the critics, information in the hands of “the government” can be misused—just look at the IRS. The IRS, as it happens, has a history of misusing information for political purposes.

    That’s absolutely right, and Mukasey would know, having worked for the administration that was responsible for this.

    Continuing…

    To be sure, there have been transgressions within intelligence agencies, but these have involved the pursuit of an intelligence mission, not a political objective.

    Not according to William Binney, former head of the National Security Agency’s global digital data gathering program (here), noted from here.

    Continuing…

    Consider also that in a post-9/11 world all of those agencies live in dread of a similar attack. That ghastly prospect itself provides incentive for analysts to focus on the intelligence task at hand and not on political or recreational use of information.

    Translated from Mukasey: Don’t question the NSA spying program, or else the terrorists have already won.

    Continuing…

    Some wallow in the idea that they are being watched, their civil liberties endangered, simply because a handful of electrons they generated were among the vast billions being reviewed in a high-stakes antiterrorism effort. Of course, many are motivated politically or ideologically to oppose robust intelligence-gathering aimed at fending off Islamist terrorism. Criticism from that quarter can be left to lie where it fell.

    Speaking of “endangered civil liberties” (from the Source Watch post noted above)…

    As a judge, in October 2001 Mukasey “dismissed concerns by a 21-year old Jordanian immigrant that he had been beaten while in U.S. custody, leaving bruises that were hidden beneath his orange prison jumpsuit.”[9] “‘As far as the claim that he was beaten, I will tell you that he looks fine to me,’ said Judge Mukasey.”[10]

    Continuing…

    Nor do these programs violate the law. Start with the Constitution. The applicable provisions lie in two clauses in the Fourth Amendment. The first bars “unreasonable searches and seizures.” The second provides that “no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause” established by affidavit, and it requires that warrants describe with particularity what or who is to be seized, and from where.

    Notice that the first clause does not forbid warrantless searches, only unreasonable ones.

    Wow, talk about some legalese hair-splitting! In Mukasey’s legally compromised (IMHO) worldview, a “warrantless” search actually isn’t “unreasonable.”

    Continuing…

    And the second simply creates a warrant requirement that is read, with some exceptions, to bar evidence at trial if it is obtained without a valid warrant. The first clause has been read to protect the content of communications in which the speaker has a reasonable expectation of privacy—telephone conversations being an obvious example. It does not protect the fact of communications.

    As far as the “fact” of communications is concerned (here)…

    The National Security Agency has at times mistakenly intercepted the private email messages and phone calls of Americans who had no link to terrorism, requiring Justice Department officials to report the errors to a secret national security court and destroy the data, according to two former U.S. intelligence officials.

    At least some of the phone calls and emails were pulled from among the hundreds of millions stored by telecommunications companies as part of an NSA surveillance program. James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, Thursday night publicly acknowledged what he called “a sensitive intelligence collection program” after its existence was disclosed by the Guardian newspaper.

    Yes, it’s commendable that the mistaken intercepts were reported and the data destroyed (or so the story says), but suppose that didn’t happen? Suppose that, in the data mining process, it was falsely recorded that yours truly called an overseas number to book some travel arrangement (not likely, I’ll admit), but the phone number was transposed by accident, and instead, it was interpreted that I called someone with links to the Muslim Brotherhood instead? What about the “fact” of that communication?

    There’s other stuff I could get into on what Mukasey said, but I think this sums things up. To me, the real takeaway comes from here (turning to Mother Jones once again)…

    The problem is that this kind of indefinite data collection makes abuse far more likely in the future. Someday there will be a different president in the White House, there will be a different head of NSA, and there will be different professionals running the program. What will they do with all that data the next time something happens that makes America crazy for a few years? I don’t know, but I do know that if they don’t have the data in the first place they can’t abuse it.

    the future is what we should be talking about. Even if NSA’s programs haven’t been abused yet, that doesn’t mean they’re okay. Likewise, even if they haven’t produced any great benefits yet, that doesn’t mean they’re stupid and useless. It’s the future that matters.

    Oh, and as long as we’re talking about Mukasey, let’s not forget this little episode, where Dem Congressman Jim Moran said that anyone opposing a civilian trial for Khalid Sheik Mohammed was “un-American” (worse), but Mukasey responded by saying that Moran should seek counseling from Maj. Nidal Hassan (worst!) – also, here is the link to the post on the Patriot Act I noted above, pointing out that Mukasey supported Section 215 of the Act, which basically invalidates the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution.

    Despite the whole “nothing to see here, move along” narrative Mukasey is trying to inflict here, I should note that this tells us that a majority of those polled want those knuckleheads in Congress (and I’m thinking mainly, but not totally, of the House when I say that) to do their jobs and hold hearings on the whole surveillance issue (which should have taken place during Bushco, but better late than never I know…and I know doing that in the House is problematic because of the likely Repug grandstanding, but it still needs to happen). I mean, I think that would be the prudent thing to do so if, say, one day, I’m driving to work and I see or hear a drone flying overhead, at least I’ll have some idea of who sent it there and what’s going on with the damn thing (and hopefully that explanation will be the truth).

    The people of this country want answers on this issue in particular. And they deserve them, including me.


    Saturday Mashup (5/18/13)

    May 18, 2013
  • Somebody named Michael Tanner at NRO said here recently that the young will have to subsidize the old and sick on health care reform, or something (with a typically understated right-wing headline, of course)…

    Moreover, (the national) debt might be a bit hard to pay off, since young people are having a very tough time finding a job in Obama’s economy. Overall unemployment in this country may finally be improving — albeit slowly — but unemployment among those under age 30 hovers around 13 percent, nearly twice as high as for the population at large. This is particularly damaging since research shows that workers who are unemployed as young adults lose valuable work experience and opportunities to develop skills. As a result, youth unemployment can lead to lower wages for many years even if young people do find a job. And many young people who are working are in low-paying jobs or jobs unrelated to their college degree.

    To summarize, then, according to Tanner:

  • The debt is making it harder to find jobs (uh, no).
  • Since young people cannot find work, it’s creating an “underclass” of unemployed (yes, but not for the reason Tanner is willing to admit – more here).
  • This is leading to lower wages (see above).
  • It’s almost funny to read this from Tanner without acknowledging the following, as noted here

    A revolution may be on the way for the under-30 set: Thanks to the provisions put in place under the new health care law, the days of needing a job just to get affordable health insurance may be over.

    The shift in how Americans can get health insurance, in some ways a little noticed effect of the sweeping 2010 law that will be in full force by 2014, could be particularly radical for young adults. They are uninsured at higher rates than any other age group and face a job market less likely to provide health benefits than the one their older siblings and parents entered in their 20s.

    “If you want a career that doesn’t tend to be associated with companies that provide health insurance coverage, you’ll have more options,” said Sara Collins, the vice president for affordable health insurance at the Commonwealth Fund. “It frees people’s work-life decisions.”

    The model of employer-based health care arose from the days after World War II when there was a huge quantity of good-paying jobs to be filled, but a comparatively small domestic labor pool, and employers believed they had to provide health care through work to attract good employees. Does anyone seriously think those days will ever return? Also, this tells us that naysaying about premiums going up for the young are “overblown” because of cost-control mechanisms built into the law.

    Continuing from Tanner…

    Even HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius admits that “some of the older customers may see a slight decline, and some of the younger ones are going to see a slight increase.” Or, not so slight. According to a survey by the American Action Forum, healthy young people in the individual or small-group insurance markets can look forward to rate increases averaging 169 percent.

    By the way, I should note that the American Action Forum (hmmm, smell the AstroTurf, people!) was founded by former John McCain confidant Douglas Holtz-Eakin, along with former Repug U.S. Senator Norm Coleman (remember how long the recount lasted in the election where he lost to Al Franken?) and former Nixonite Fred Malek, among other Repug “heavy hitters.”

    For the record, here is some more realistic information on likely premium increases under health care reform (and as noted here, Tanner is no stranger to propagandizing on this subject).

  • Next, it’s time for the latest pearls of wisdom from Pulitzer Prize-winning (ugh) columnist Bret Stephens of the Murdoch Street Journal (here).

    In wording that I cannot obtain now verbatim because this latest dreck from Stephens went behind Rupert’s pay wall (heh) faster than I could retrieve all of it, Stephens blames Obama for the deterioration of the Congo. As noted here, though, you can just add that to the massive legacy of problems that Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History handed off to Number 44 (and I honestly don’t recall EVER seeing a corporate media compendium of the whole sorry list of “parking lot” items that Former President Nutball swept under the proverbial rug…if roles had been reversed, we’d be hearing about them forever).

    Continuing (I managed to get a couple of excerpts anyway)…

    Yet barring fresh blockbuster revelations the scandal will go nowhere, because so many Americans are as eager as the White House spokesman to forget it ever happened.

    WAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!! BENGHAZI BENGHAZI BENGHAZI BENGHAZI BENGHAZI!!!!!

    Oh, boo-f*cking-hoo, Bret. Sorry that the “99 percent” rabble is blowing off another Repug media circus (and you along with it, I guess) and concentrating on “dumb” stuff instead like our economy, our environment including our planet that continues to melt, national security issues for real, etc.

    Nope, it didn’t work for Stephens, and I don’t think it’s going to work for anyone else either (here).

    Continuing…

    America alone, it seems, suffers the opposite affliction: We remember little, and we remember it poorly. “Does America Need a Foreign Policy?” The question seems odd only because not many people besides Henry Kissinger, nearly 90, can recall that the U.S. has attempted to do without one before—and recall also how the previous attempt ended in September of 1939.

    That’s actually kind of an unintentionally hilarious comment when you consider that FDR was doing his best to help Winston Churchill and Great Britain, but his hands were tied by neutrality laws passed by Republicans and southern-state Democrats in Congress (Roosevelt signed them reluctantly because he needed the support of these people for his domestic agenda, though he did manage to aid Great Britain before December 7, 1941).

    And besides, based on this fairly scholarly takedown of Stephens, it looks like the august Journal pundit misinterpreted Kissinger anyway; though Nixon’s foreign policy guru was one of the most notorious liars in history as far as I’m concerned, he at least knew the limits of American hegemony, something that utterly escapes a triumphalist wingnut like Stephens.

  • Further, did you know that Dem U.S. House Rep Allyson Schwartz would be just an awful candidate to run against PA Governor Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett because ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION ABORTION!!!!! (here)…

    For over a decade, Schwartz was the executive director of an abortion clinic in Philadelphia, the Elizabeth Blackwell Women’s Health Center. Under her direction, the clinic — which is now run by Planned Parenthood — provided first-trimester abortions, as evidenced by a lawsuit it was a party to in 1995.

    This matters because the governor of Pennsylvania has the power to enforce — or not enforce — abortion regulations. One of Corbett’s predecessors, the pro-choice Republican Tom Ridge, didn’t enforce laws mandating abortion clinic inspections. That’s part of the reason Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell was able to get away with killing as many as several hundred babies that had survived late-term abortions. (This week, Gosnell was convicted of murdering three newborn infants. He was also convicted of involuntary manslaughter of one patient.) Inspections would have stopped Gosnell and his staff in their tracks, but the facility avoided inspection for 17 years!

    This is the real “war on women.”

    Fortunately, Governor Corbett signed into law abortion clinic regulations in the wake of the grand jury report on Gosnell’s crimes.

    Um, there’s just a teensy weensy bit of an omission here, and that is the fact that the horrors of Gosnell’s clinic were discovered when former PA Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat, quite rightly decided to enforce abortion clinic inspections once more in 2010, as noted here.

    In response, I thought this was a pretty detailed post on Congresswoman Schwartz, and what she brings to the table against Corbett. And given the fact that Admiral Joe Sestak has said that he’ll start gearing up for a rematch with Pat Toomey here (which will be a bit more daunting with Toomey’s commendable recent actions on guns, even though he’s utterly awful on everything else – and that “poison pill” in Toomey-Manchin on a federal gun registry is utterly ridiculous)…well, we’ll see if that ends up clearing more of a path for Schwartz to the nomination.

    So who is it in The Daily Tucker who is primarily criticizing Schwartz anyway? “Pro-life” activists Marjorie Dannenfelser and Mike Geer, that’s who.

    I can’t find much on Geer, but as noted here, this tells us that Dannenfelser claimed “victory” on a supposed social issues truce within the Repug Party (meaning, I guess among other things, that her brethren can now go back to caterwauling about “values” pabulum for the other lemmings under the Repug “brand” – this development apparently had something to do with Indiana Repug Governor and former Bushie Mitch Daniels deciding not to run for president in 2012, though Daniels is definitely not a moderate by any means).

    And like a good little wingnut, Dannenfelser twisted herself in metaphorical knots trying to defend the odious Blunt Amendment here (sponsored by the guy responsible for this) in which the Missouri Repug U.S. Senator tried to “grant employers significant discretion in deciding what kind of health care they want to provide workers” (translated, that means employers could refuse to provide coverage for anything whatsoever to do with those dreaded, icky lady parts). And on top of that, Dannenfelser claimed here that Planned Parenthood made $300 million in “profit,” which, in a lucid moment for them, was properly debunked by Politifact (not the same thing as excess revenue over expenses, as pointed out by people who actually know what they’re talking about).

    I realize that I didn’t point out earlier that it is sickeningly disingenuous for The Daily Tucker to try and conflate anything Allyson Schwartz did while running the Elizabeth Blackwell Women’s Health Center with Kermit Gosnell’s chamber of horrors. So please allow me to do so now.

  • Also, it looks like our wet noodle PA-08 rep has been getting a lot of “love” lately from the No Labels crowd, with recent hosannas from the Bucks County Courier Times as well as this item from philly.com…

    Too often, people focus on our differences instead of what brings us together. Yet, despite what we all hear, common ground does exist among lawmakers from opposing parties.

    Although one of us is a Democrat and the other a Republican, we both believe that things can and should get done in Washington. Our constituents sent us to our nation’s capital not to position and posture, but to use common sense and compromise to move our country forward.

    This is why we joined the bipartisan group called No Labels, and are identified with the Problem Solvers caucus. We surely don’t agree on every issue, but we are united in the desire to put partisanship aside and find common ground. There are plenty of areas that we can find to achieve results for the people we represent.

    Oh, by the way, “moderate” Mikey votes with his U.S. House “leadership” about 79 percent of the time (gag me). And Mikey’s new “BFF” Cheri Bustos was rated the 182nd most progressive member of Congress (hmmm); both of those items among others are noted here.

    As far as I’m concerned, though, “No Labels” is another one of these fraud “centrist” groups trying to be bipartisan when, in fact, they’re pretty much bygone-centrist-era Republicans, if that. This tells us that one of their big ideas was “bipartisan seating arrangements” in Congress (really?), and this from Alex Pareene of Salon tells us that another one of their “big ideas” is “No Budget, No Pay” (Again, really? How about “No Passing President Obama’s American Jobs Act And Waging War On Public Sector Employees, To Say Nothing of Climate Change Denial, No Pay” instead? And sorry that’s too big and not catchy enough to fit on a bumper sticker.).

  • Finally (and keeping it local for Bucks County, Lower Makefield in particular), I have a feeling that this will be my last opportunity to comment on the primary election this Tuesday in which Deb Wachspress and Josh Waldorf are running for the Democratic Party nomination to compete in the general election this fall for the Pennsbury School Board. So it’s particularly important that folks in the Pennsbury School District go out and support Deb and Josh on Tuesday.

    Campbell_518c6b248a212_preview-300
    Because every vote for Deb and Josh is a vote against this guy.


  • Tuesday Mashup (4/23/13)

    April 23, 2013

  • I’m a little late I know with this item noting that Earth Day was yesterday (here), and with that in mind, here is a Media Matters post about related stories that are basically going untold by our corporate media (yes, I know they’re from last year, but I haven’t detected that things have changed much).

    Also, on the subject of the environment, Think Progress brings us a pretty exhaustive list of the members of Congress belonging to the “climate zombie caucus” (many of whom continue to take up space on Capitol Hill), and this tells us that, according to the wingnuts, Earth Day is nothing but a communist plot anyway (never mind that that it became law under Republican President Richard Nixon). Also, this tells us about the sordid doings of “Doc” Hastings, chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources.

    Want to know why all of this matters? Well, for starters (as a Roman Catholic), I give you this.

  • Also, leave it to the Murdoch Street Journal to regurgitate any and all wingnut talking points, particularly on health care reform as noted here (and by the way, if the Democrats ever run a House committee again and link from that committee’s site to, say, an MSNBC story, I’m sure the wingnut harrumphing will be heard from the mountaintops)…

    Congressional Republicans have mapped out another way to obstruct ObamaCare, thanks to the incompetence of its architects. It’s a shame certain absolutists on the right are mounting another self-defeating rebellion in the name of the impossible.

    The insurrection comes as the Health and Human Services Department has already burned through all the dollars appropriated by the Affordable Care Act for implementation. HHS is now demanding an extra $5.9 billion to set up the law’s insurance exchanges—$2 billion more than it estimated it would take last year—but both Senate Democrats and the House denied the request last month.

    HHS responded by announcing that it would simply steal however many dollars it needs from a separate ObamaCare slush fund. Supposedly devoted to “prevention,” this cash has been funneled to everything from bike-path signs to patronage for liberal pressure groups lobbying for fast-food taxes. Now HHS is reaching into this till for at least $454 million this year, with no accountability.

    Yep, ridiculous is as ridiculous does – as noted here

    …the Affordable Care Act set aside $15 billion over 10 years to support prevention and preventive services through the Prevention and Public Health Fund—the largest commitment ever made by the U.S. government to prevent illness and injury before it occurs and keep people healthy in the first place.

    Attacks on the prevention fund began almost as soon as it was passed. Some Republicans called it a “slush fund,” tried to kill it entirely and then to reduce its funding. Early this year, the fund was slashed to maintain unemployment benefits and avoid cutting pay to doctors in the Medicare program (the so-called “doc fix”).

    Despite the hostility, in 2011, the CDC awarded nearly $300 million in Community Transformation Grants to states, cities and tribes across the country to create safe, walkable streets, promote healthy food environments, support worksite wellness, help children get after-school exercise and reduce people’s exposure to tobacco. One grant went to Oklahoma City, where Republican Mayor Mick Cornett has used the money to boost his efforts to make the city a healthier place.

    Besides, as noted here, the Affordable Care Act incorporates the prevention recommendations from at least two separate pieces of legislation, one from former U.S. House Rep Mike Castle and one from U.S. Senator Mark Kirk.

    And by the way, they’re both Republicans.

  • Continuing, this tells us the following (Update here)…

    Travelers could be in for longer waits at the airport this week, after the Federal Aviation Administration imposed furloughs on air traffic controllers despite claims by some lawmakers that the agency could have complied with the sequester in other ways.

    The FAA went ahead with the furloughs on Sunday, citing the automatic budget cuts that went into effect last month. Some delays appeared in the late evening in and around New York, and according to the FAA were spreading on Monday.

    Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said last week that the FAA “has made zero effort” to avoid the furloughs.

    “The FAA’s decision is a dangerous political stunt that could jeopardize the safety and security of air travelers,” he said in a statement.

    The FAA has estimated there could be flight delays of about 90 minutes during peak periods.

    And if there’s someone who knows all about a “dangerous political stunt,” it’s Tom Coburn.

    You see, Coburn has been obstructing on FAA funding for at least a year and a half, as noted here, to the point where former U.S. Repug Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison called him out, though not by name (Harry Reid came a little closer to that here).

    And by the way, I’m tired of listening to Coburn whine about how dysfunctional Washington is. If he doesn’t like it there so much, then why doesn’t he just get the hell out? It’s not like he doesn’t have other options, right?

  • gwb_13-george-w-bush

  • Further, just when you thought he was gone for good (here)…

    Former President George W. Bush said he feels “no need to defend himself” over the high-profile decisions that marked his two terms in office, saying he will leave those judgments to history.

    “There’s no need to defend myself,” Bush said in an interview with USA Today. “I did what I did and ultimately history will judge.”

    Bush, along with President Obama and former Presidents Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Carter, will be on hand to open the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas on Thursday.

    Here’s a news flash for Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History; half of those polled here from last November still blame him more than Number 44 for the still-perpetually-wretched economy. And this tells us that his approval rating has “skyrocketed” to 35 percent (only the previously mentioned Richard Milhous Nixon, who was faced with impeachment over Watergate that likely would have resulted in a conviction, is more unpopular, as noted here).

    In a really twisted way I’ll admit, Dubya is actually the proverbial “gift that keeps on giving.” By continuing to remind us that he still enjoys the company of mostly decent people everywhere, he is a walking, talking, breathing example of Repug executive “governance” at its very worst, and a perpetual reminder of why his party should never be allowed to wield that degree of power ever again.

    Update 4/25/13: Amen.

  • Finally, I should note that I’m really pissed off about this story, but not for the reason you may think.

    If the kid wearing the T-shirt in question (14-year-old Jared Marcum) didn’t violate any school dress code, then he should have been left alone. Yes, many NRA members continue to gin up their outrage over their crass misinterpretation of the Second Amendment (which, thanks to Hangin’ Judge JR and the Supremes, now has the force of law courtesy of the Heller decision), but this is all we need…another wingnut pity party over being supposedly persecuted and harassed by those oh-so-dastardly liberals trying to take away our freedom!

    I also know that teachers are allowed to make subjective judgments in these situations, and that should be respected too. However, now as a result of this, I’m sure we’ll also have some deep-pocketed pro-gun outfit filing a lawsuit to ensure that anyone on any grounds of any West Virginia school is allowed to carry a concealed weapon (besides, how about a calm, rational discussion with Marcum instead?).

    You want all this nonsense to end, people? Elect Democrats and bug them to pass common sense gun laws. That way, maybe teachers will be less inclined to overreact.

    And by the way, the story tells us that Logan County students wore NRA t-shirts today in solidarity with Marcum.

    thousands-march-against-gun-violence-washington-photos_2
    Heckuva job!


  • Wednesday Mashup (4/17/13)

    April 17, 2013
    • Someone named Wayne Allyn Root over at Fix Noise opined as follows here

      There are no new jobs. There will be no new jobs. Creating jobs in Obama’s America is like trying to grow healthy plants in a nuclear blast zone. Obama has turned the U.S. economy into a “Hostile Work Environment.” I call it Obamageddon.

      And of course, there are zero citations for anything in this screed, which is totally typical from the media wing of the Republican Party.

      Yes, I’m sure there are smatterings of truth somewhere from Root (and at the very end of his column, he sneaks in a plug for his anti-Obama book, the latest from the right-wing outrage factory), such as payroll taxes going up (an expiration of the payroll tax cut not renewed by Congress, as noted here) and health insurance premiums going up (which has not one damn thing to do with “Obama Care,” since the exchanges aren’t due to go into effect until next year and the individual mandate, creating a whole bunch of new subscribers for the health insurance behemoths in this country, was upheld by The Supremes last year, as noted here).

      The inescapable fact is that the ultimate “power of the purse” in our government rests with the U.S. House, currently run by “Orange Man” Boehner and that sleazy weasel Eric Cantor, not Obama. And as noted here, Boehner couldn’t keep his own caucus together to get a deal even on his laughable “Plan B” on the economy, punting the decision back to Obama and the Senate, as Kevin Drum tells us (which ties back to Boehner’s practice of keeping our economy in perpetual crisis, which is bound to drag down job growth, as noted here). And as noted here, Boehner and his pals continue to sit on Obama’s American Jobs Act.

      And I’m tired of hearing about how “austerity” supposedly is the answer to our problems on the economy, including job growth (the latest debunking is here). And do you want to know where deficit reduction has come from so far? As noted here, 70 percent came from cuts in government programs, which are stimulative to one degree or another, and only 30 percent came from increased revenue (and for good measure, this omnibus post from Jon Perr of Daily Kos gives us all kinds of information on who does a better job of managing the economy between Democrats and Republicans).

      But of course this is typical for Root, who called Obama the “Marxist-in-chief” who has “declared war on capitalism” here (really?).

    • Next, Thomas Sowell at clownhall.com tells us the following (here)…

      Amid all the heated, emotional advocacy of gun control, have you ever heard even one person present convincing hard evidence that tighter gun control laws have in fact reduced murders?

      Actually, yes. And here it is, from here

      Last year, economist Richard Florida dove deep into the correlations between gun deaths and other kinds of social indicators. Some of what he found was, perhaps, unexpected: Higher populations, more stress, more immigrants, and more mental illness were not correlated with more deaths from gun violence. But one thing he found was, perhaps, perfectly predictable: States with tighter gun control laws appear to have fewer gun-related deaths. The disclaimer here is that correlation is not causation. But correlations can be suggestive:

      Also, here is more related info:

    • This tells us that states with looser gun laws have higher rates of gun violence.
    • This tells us that gun homicides in Missouri increased by 25 percent after the state repealed its background check law.
    • This tells us that members of law enforcement are more likely to be killed in states with weaker gun laws (as I’ve said I don’t know how many times, why the #@!$ can’t we make the discussion about guns start from the point of view of what works best for the police? And yes, I know the answer.).
    • Gosnell_MM_Pic_0417
      And by the way, I’m going to switch gears here, as it were, and add the following graphic concerning the trial of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell (courtesy of Media Matters…I’m sick of reading and listening to wingnut caterwauling over a supposed “liberal bias” cover up on this truly horrific story, as noted here – truly sickening stuff, and Gosnell could quite rightly IMHO face the death penalty if convicted…more is here).

      Update 4/18/13: If Marsha Blackburn is involved, then the stoo-pid is thick enough to cut with a knife (here).

      From our area, Pancake Joe Pitts, Scott Garrett and Mike Kelly signed; go to Blackburn’s web site if you want to experience this idiocy first hand (the last thing I’m going to do is link to it myself – a good response is here).

    • Continuing, it should be pointed out that, while one of Rupert Murdoch’s highest profile vanity rags is quite rightly getting excoriated for journalistic malpractice while reporting the horrific bombings at the Boston Marathon (here), it shouldn’t be forgotten that they also committed another affront to decency here

      Fifty years ago (on 4/16), Martin Luther King Jr. penned one of the most enduring documents of the civil-rights struggle while locked in a jail cell in Birmingham, Ala.

      His Letter From Birmingham Jail was a clarion call for the right to civil disobedience. Though first requested by an editor for The New York Times, it was in the pages of The New York Post that these words would first be printed.

      This week, the Times published a very different kind of prison letter. Yesterday its op-ed pages carried an article titled “Gitmo Is Killing Me.” It was written by Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, whom the Times identifies only as “a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay since 2002.”

      Pity the Times didn’t take a look at its own Web site before publishing. There, under a project called “The Guantanamo Docket,” is a Defense Department memo identifying the Yemeni national as “a member of al Qaeda who served on Osama bin Laden’s security detail.”

      The Post also points out that, as noted from here, Moqbel was indeed labeled as “A HIGH RISK . . . as he is likely to pose a threat to US interests.”

      However, when you read Page 3 of the 10-page “jacket” on Moqbel; you find out the following…

      Detainee traveled to Afghanistan, and stayed at a house in the Wazir Akbar Khan District of Kabul. Detainee left his passport at the house in Kabul before going to the frontlines to fight the Northern Alliance. He fought at the front lines north of Kabul as a fighter in the Sadiq Combat Unit, which consisted of approximately 15 or 16 fighters. Detainee received some pay as a fighter which enabled him to purchase needed items such as food and clothing. Detainee denied knowing (Osama bin Laden). After the US and Coalition bombing campaign initiated in Afghanistan, detainee believed it was too dangerous to be an Arab in Afghanistan; therefore, he fled the front-lines in December 2001 and stopped in Kabul. Detainee continued on to Khowst, AF, where he stayed for two weeks while he attempted to flee from Afghanistan.

      So basically, not only did Moqbel not fight against our troops, he was trying to get the hell out of Afghanistan after we invaded.

      And this guy is labeled “A HIGH RISK”? Am I missing something here? And as The Raw Story points out here, Moqbel was never even charged with a crime.

      Turning to Glenn Greenwald on this, we learn the following here (along with the fact that Moqbel is currently in the midst of a hunger strike to protest conditions in Guantanamo, which, when you learn more about it, is a national shame in and of itself, in particular the painful forced feedings endured by the inmates)…

      Moqbel…is Yemeni. More than half of the remaining 166 detainees at the camp are Yemeni. Dozens of those Yemenis (along with dozens of other detainees) have long ago been cleared for release by the US government on the ground that there is no evidence to believe they are a threat to anyone. A total of 87 of the remaining detainees – roughly half – have been cleared for release, of which 58 are Yemeni. Not even the US government at this point claims they are guilty or pose a threat to anyone.

      The Yemeni government not only is willing to take them, but is now demanding their release, using language notably harsh for a US puppet regime:

      “Even Yemen’s president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who generally enjoys close relations with the United States, has directed rare criticism at the Obama administration.

      “‘We believe that keeping someone in prison for over 10 years without due process is clear-cut tyranny,’ Hadi said in a recent interview broadcast over the Arabic language channel of Russia Today. ‘The United States is fond of talking democracy and human rights. But when we were discussing the prisoner issue with the American attorney general, he had nothing to say.'”

      “Clear-cut tyranny”, says Yemen’s president. But in January, 2010, Obama – not Congress, but Obama – announced a moratorium on the release of any Yemeni detainees, even ones cleared for release. As Amnesty International put it at the beginning of this year:

      “But President Obama adopted the USA’s unilateral and flawed ‘global war’ paradigm and accepted indefinite detentions under this framework.

      “Then, in 2010, his administration announced that it had decided that four dozen of the Guantánamo detainees could neither be prosecuted nor released, but should remain in indefinite military detention without charge or criminal trial. The administration also imposed a moratorium on repatriation of Yemeni detainees. and said that 30 such detainees would be held in ‘conditional’ detention based on ‘current security conditions in Yemen’. This moratorium is still in place.”

      I realize that Obama tried to close Guantanamo, but received push-back from Congress (and Greenwald has some interesting commentary on that also from his post). However, the matter of either charging the Guantanamo prisoners or releasing them to their countries of origin (as much as that is feasible considering whether or not they can return) is worthy of something I once heard referred to as “the fierce urgency of now” as opposed to “the somewhat tepid need to address this matter by whoever follows in office sometime after 2016.”

    • Finally, I should note from here that the Pulitzer Prizes in journalism were recently awarded; the New York Times won 4, including a team reporting award for some of the worker abuses at the Apple Foxconn facility in China. Others went to the Washington Post, the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, FLA, the Denver Post, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune.Oh, and Bret Stephens of the Murdoch Street Journal won an award for editorial writing.

      OK, I’ll give you a minute to pick yourself up off the floor; no doubt that you experienced a convulsion of laughter over that last sentence that sent you falling out of your chair.

      There’s one problem, though – it’s true.

      Yes, really.

      As the story puts it…

      The Pulitzer citation said Stephens’ columns on American foreign policy and politics are incisive and “often enlivened by a contrarian twist.”

      Editorial Page Editor Paul Gigot said in a statement, “We’re delighted to see our colleague Bret Stephens recognized for his influential and popular columns on foreign affairs and politics.”

      So, in the spirit of the occasion, here are some examples of Stephens with his “contrarian twist” at work…

    • Here, he lamented the supposed foreign policy failures of the Obama Administration, even though Number 44 had only been sworn into office a month ago.
    • Here, he rather disgustingly compared John Lennon to the former Communist Party strongman who shared most of his last name.
    • Here, he misrepresented the Bush Doctrine and criticized Obama for stepping up a bit on the Darfur crisis, as opposed to Former President Numbskull.
    • Here, he defended “the surge” in Iraq and criticized Obama for not giving Dubya enough credit for it (typical wingnut mythology – any gains experienced as a result had to do more with the so-called “Sunni Awakening” and “Saint Petraeus” handing out bribes like cards from a deck of poker).
    • Here, he criticized other countries for swine flu preparedness (that seems to be a particular sticking point for conservatives for some reason – guess they want unnecessary wholesale casualties to “decrease the surplus population,” as somebody once wrote).
    • Stephens once wrote that “Consistency, principled or foolish, has never been a hobgoblin of the liberal mind.” in a column where he tried to equate the outing of covert U.S. agent Valerie Plame, who made a living tracking loose nukes before Bushco blew her cover, with Eric Holder’s investigation of interrogators who “threatened to kill the children and sexually assault the mother of a key terror suspect,” as noted here (some apples with your oranges, Bret?).
    • Here (as K.O. tells us), he said that those who acknowledged the reality of global warming were “Stalinists” (and why the hell isn’t that man back on the air by now – Keith, I mean?).
    • Here, Stephens decided to look into the future in an effort to try and imagine more scenarios of failure for President Obama.
    • I cannot imagine what persuaded the committee awarding the Pulitzers into such an utterly laughable act as giving an award to this conservative hack (the fourth estate in this country continues to die a slow and inexorable death).

      Cheney
      If Bret Stephens can win a Pulitzer, then Dick Cheney can win the Nobel Peace Prize.

      Update 4/18/13: And as long as I’m discussing the Journal, I should point out that writer Peter Nicholas wrote this “news” story about Obama now choosing to lead, or whatever, in light of the fact that it took him three days to respond to the attempted Christmas plane bombing in 2009 by the guy who nearly blew up his junk instead. That appears to be accurate reporting, though.

      However, I don’t recall reading similar columns from the Journal about Obama’s wretched predecessor now choosing to lead or whatever after he waited six days to respond to the attemped plane attack by would-be show bomber Richard Reid, as noted here (see Myth 3).

      Lather, rinse, repeat…

      Update 4/22/13: And I somehow missed this earlier “gem” from Stephens.

      Update 4/14/17: Stephens recently won a gig as a columnist at The Old Gray Lady, where he no doubt will challenge BoBo as the leading white male practitioner of talking down to women, people of color and LGBTQ gender preferences – I think this is a good column to link to as a rejoinder of sorts (h/t Atrios).


    Thursday Mashup (3/21/13)

    March 21, 2013
  • Last Monday marked the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision of Gideon v. Wainright in which the High Court ruled unanimously that the Constitution requires the states to provide defense attorneys to criminal defendants charged with serious offenses who cannot afford lawyers themselves (this was the basis for the great TV movie called “Gideon’s Trumpet” starring Henry Fonda – here).

    As noted here, though…

    The issue is by no means settled. In his recent New York Times editorial “The Right to Counsel: Badly Battered at 50,” Lincoln Caplan contends that “After 50 years, the promise of Gideon v. Wainwright is mocked more of than fulfilled,” at times because of the lack of funding for public defender offices, in other cases due to incompetent counsel. He concludes, “There is no shortage of lawyers to do this work. What stands in the way is an undemocratic, deep-seated lack of political will.”

    Indeed – as noted here, Georgia shifted the burden of providing counsel to its 159 counties; this was an issue in particular for capital murder cases involving the death penalty (don’t know if it was an issue here or not) – apparently Georgia is responsible for more executions than any state except Texas (I think that’s what the author meant to say instead of “Houston”). And it’s not much better in the “Sunshine State” (here); New York State has issues also as noted here (lest anyone think I intend to pick on “red” states only).

    And from here

    The Supreme Court has carved out other exceptions to the right to counsel after an arrest. It has allowed law enforcement officials to have ex parte contacts with defendants to determine whether the defendant is in fact represented by counsel (sic). It has also allowed ex parte communications that are made with the consent of defendant’s counsel; those made pursuant to discovery procedures, such as subpoenas; communications in the course of a criminal investigation; communications necessary to protect the life or safety of another person; and those made by a represented person, so long as the person has knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived the right to have counsel present. These exceptions apply to all persons, regardless of whether they can afford their own attorney.

    And as noted here

    No one wants to pay for more public defenders. Or, better put, few people in political power care enough about the gross injustices being done to poor people to spend more money trying to ensure they receive adequate representation. “Inadequate funding is the primary source of the systemic failure in indigent defense programs nationwide,” concluded Harvard Law School student David A. Simon in a thoughtful law review piece published a few years ago. “Of the more than $146.5 billion spent annually on criminal justice, over half is allocated to support the police officers and prosecutors who investigate and prosecute cases, while only about two to three percent goes toward indigent defense.”

    (Criminal justice experts Stephen B. Bright and Sia M. Sanneh) don’t just blame lawmakers. “Many judges tolerate or welcome inadequate representation because it allows them to process many cases in a short time,” they write. And the problem is made worse, they contend, because the “Supreme Court has refused to require competent representation, instead adopting a standard of ‘effective counsel’ that hides and perpetuates deficient representation.” Not only that, Simon adds, but the justices have “neglected to specify which level of government — federal, state or local — must serve as the guarantor” of the right to counsel nor the “method by which states should administer their public defender programs.” No one is responsible, in other words, because everyone is in charge.

    Let us hope that this HBO documentary, due to air this summer, helps to shed some more light on this travesty.

  • Further, I give you the latest from the fake outrage factory here (ZOMG! There goes that Marxist preh-zee-dint of ours again)…

    Yesterday during the White House daily press briefing, Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked by “just a blogger” if President Obama planned to cut back on his lavish vacations and travel at a time when the country is hurting economically. Carney’s answer wasn’t “no,” but rather a long drawn out “Obama is focused on jobs.”

    This question came just one week after it was revealed the Obama’s are living at a cost of $1.4 billion per year.

    This is an attempt to re-spin the finding here from last year that the Obama White House spent $1.4 billion on vacations, which was totally ridiculous when it was first pronounced for the reasons noted here (actually, Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs did an even better job of dispensing with this nonsense here).

    Memo to clownhall.com…the purse strings of the federal government rest with the House of Representatives. Neither you nor your wingnut brethren have any right whatsoever to complain about the effects of the sequester, particularly when Obama and the Senate Democrats have been proposing alternatives that don’t totally screw over many more people than necessary in this country and leave the “pay no price, bear no burden” bunch untouched as usual.

    Meanwhile, Man Tan Boehner, that sleazy weasel Eric Cantor, Mr.-Puppy-Dog-Eyes-With-The-Shiv and the rest of the Repug “young guns” (with Mikey the Beloved pledging his supine acceptance) are bound and determined to shove austerity down our throats whether we like it or not, all to make Congressional Democrats and Number 44 look as bad as they can.

  • Next, BoBo of the New York Times is back, as noted from here

    There is a statue outside the Federal Trade Commission of a powerful, rambunctious horse being reined in by an extremely muscular man. This used to be a metaphor for liberalism. The horse was capitalism. The man was government, which was needed sometimes to restrain capitalism’s excesses.

    Today, liberalism seems to have changed. Today, many progressives seem to believe that government is the horse, the source of growth, job creation and prosperity. Capitalism is just a feeding trough that government can use to fuel its expansion.

    For an example of this new worldview, look at the budget produced by the Congressional Progressive Caucus last week. These Democrats try to boost economic growth with a gigantic $2.1 trillion increase in government spending — including a $450 billion public works initiative, a similar-size infrastructure program and $179 billion so states, too, can hire more government workers.

    Oh yes, how dare those baaad, dastardly Dems try to hire more “government workers” (police, fire, teachers – you know, those lazy, gold-bricking swine…snark). And of course, David Brooks won’t tell us that the U.S. House Repugs and their economic warfare on said workers (as part of the austerity I noted earlier) is one of the biggest drags against our economic recovery (here).

    Oh, and BoBo also tells us the following about taxes (Brooks is responding to Back to Work, the plan of the Progressive Democratic Caucus, which would indeed raise the top-end rate to 49 percent – for anyone making $1 billion or more – I’ll acknowledge that there could be a “bite” when you calculate state and local taxes with it, but I’m sorry, I don’t see that as a “game changer”; maybe try to factor in a tax credit for these folks when we return to prosperity? Just a thought…)…

    Now, of course, there have been times, like, say, the Eisenhower administration, when top tax rates were very high. But the total tax burden was lower since so few people paid the top rate and there were so many ways to avoid it. Government was smaller.

    And high earners aren’t avoiding taxes now? Really?

    And Brooks also trots out the “higher taxes will cause me to work less” argument, supported by former Bushie Greg Mankiw among others – I think it is important to consider this in response, mainly that such thinking is counter-intuitive to human nature (wouldn’t you want to work more to make up lost earnings?) – also, deferring taxation this way might end up putting more of a burden on your kids if you’re a parent.

    As noted here, though, BoBo has been wrong about income inequality for years (and as noted here, Brooks once blamed women for it – nice). And for good measure, he once defended the “one percent” here (Matt Yglesias responds also here – h/t Jay Ackroyd at Eschaton).

    In conclusion, I just wanted to note that I did a search for “unemployed” or any variation thereof in Brooks’s column, and I came up empty, which isn’t surprising I know (love to see how Brooks would do having to work one or two “McJobs” in an effort to make up for his cushy pundit paycheck and related perks).

  • And never to be outdone when it comes to self-righteous indignation, the Murdoch Street Journal whines as follows here (about Medicare Advantage, which, quite rightly, is being targeted for a budget cut)…

    The tragedy is that Medicare Advantage architecture is far from perfect and HHS could save money if it wanted to, in particular by targeting the private fee-for-service plans that mimic all of traditional Medicare’s dysfunctions except with an element of private profit. But that approach conflicts with the Administration’s political goal of strangling Medicare Advantage in the crib.

    (Conservatives just love to punctuate their literary flourishes with violent imagery, don’t they?)

    As noted here

    Medicare Advantage was started under President George W. Bush, and the idea was that competition among the private insurers would reduce costs. But in recent years the plans have actually cost more than traditional Medicare. So the health care law scales back the payments to private insurers.

    And as noted here

    Private insurance plans under Medicare Advantage are often able to attract healthier Medicare beneficiaries by offering cheap — but bare-bones — health plans. When those healthier seniors encounter a medical problem that’s too extensive for their private coverage, they switch over to the more generous traditional Medicare program in order to take advantage of its more expansive benefits. That in turn, raises spending in the traditional Medicare pool

    And just go ahead and call me a filthy, unkempt liberal blogger, but based on this poll from last December, I would say that most of those people polled want traditional Medicare to be left alone (despite all of its “dysfunctions,” something the Repugs would do well to get through their thick heads in light of this).

  • Finally, Irrational Spew Online bloviates as follows here

    Elizabeth Warren was slated to be the first head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Senate Republicans stopped her confirmation, so now she is leading the charge to confirm Richard Cordray to that office.

    But nobody should be the head of this monstrous Dodd-Frankenstein by-product. The structure and powers of the CFPB, as created by Congress, put it outside our constitutional system. Most significantly, Congress allotted the bureau an independent source of revenue, guaranteed its insulation from legislative or executive oversight, and gave it the power to define and punish “abusive” practices.

    Actually, this tells us that the CFPB can have its rules vetoed by something called the FSOC, and no other regulator is subject to this kind of a check (so much for operating “outside our constitutional system”). Also, this tells us how Warren has called out the Repugs on their BS over Cordray in particular and the CFPB and Dodd-Frank in general.

    And as noted here (in the matter of supposed “insulation from legislative or executive oversight”)…

    “Since his first confirmation hearing in September 2011, Director Cordray has appeared before this Committee more than any other financial regulator,” said (South Dakota Democratic U.S. Senator Tim) Johnson. “During that time, he has proved to be a strong leader of the CFPB. He has completed many of the rules required by Wall Street Reform, including a well-received final [Qualified Mortgage] rule. He listens, and has crafted strong rules that take into account all sides of an issue. He has laid the groundwork for nonbank regulation. He has brought to light the financial challenges faced by students, elderly Americans, servicemembers and their families. He has taken important enforcement actions against banks that took advantage of customers. So I ask my colleagues, what more can Richard Cordray do to deserve an up-or-down vote? I hope we can finally put aside politics and move forward with Richard Cordray’s confirmation.” – Consumerist, 3/19/13

    The Daily Kos post tells us that the U.S. Senate Banking Committee approved the nomination of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The vote was 12-10 along party lines. Every Democrat supported him. Every Republican opposed him.

    As mad as I get at the Dems at times, I get even madder at people who say they’re the same as Republicans. The latter bunch just wants to keep fleecing us, fighting unending wars for little or no purpose, fouling the environment at will, sitting on their collective hands while austerity tries to wreck our fledgling recovery, allowing weapons of death to continue flooding every school, movie theater, and gathering place of any kind in this country, and continually trying to demonize the opposition party instead of working with them on behalf of the best interests of the majority of the people of this nation (oh, but they’re “pro-life,” aren’t they? Not if you’re actually born, they’re not).

    And unless you’re rich, if you know all this and still support these fools, frauds and charlatans (at least on the national level anyway – I’ve encountered precious few good Republicans on the local level, though not recently), then I have no tolerance for your point of view.

    Your willful ignorance continues to be the ruin of this country. Heckuva job!


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