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.

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    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.

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    Wednesday Mashup (5/1/13)

    May 1, 2013
  • Let’s start with a Bucks County item, and we need to take a brief trip back in time first.

    As noted here from last month, the Pennsbury Education Association (the union representing the Pennsbury school district employees) requested that the arbiter involved in the negotiations with the PEA and the school board not release the latest proposal figures in the ongoing negotiations.

    Because…

    Revised salary demands from the Pennsbury Education Association were posted on the district’s website…and that has union officials up in arms.

    The figures are part of a report for a state-appointed fact-finder to consider in April, said PEA spokeswoman Lucy Walter.

    “They should have remained confidential so that (fact-finder Lawrence) Coburn could do his work without external interference,” Walter said Wednesday night. “It is a shame that the Pennsbury Board of (School) Directors are so afraid of a fact-finding process that they would seek to sabotage it before it begins.”

    The teachers union asked for the fact-finder March 19 to try to break the long-standing labor dispute with the Pennsbury school board.

    So the PEA asks the fact finder to try and resolve the dispute, which of course the Pennsbury school board didn’t do. And to compound the problem, the board violates the confidentiality of the negotiations.

    So now you’re caught up for this item from a couple of days ago, which tells us the following…

    A fact-finder recommends no pay raises for the first three years of a five-year deal between Pennsbury and its teachers union and raises of less than 1 percent for some teachers the other two years.

    The 20-page recommendation by Lawrence Coburn, the state-appointed fact-finder, aims to end the long-running contract impasse between the district’s school board and the Pennsbury Education Association. He issued the report to the two sides on Monday.

    So basically, the school board refuses to take the initiative and get a mediator, then, when the PEA actually gets that done (and it looks like they’re going to get a “haircut” for their trouble), the board violates the spirit of the negotiations by posting the full fact-finder report online.

    If you guessed that this is another Simon Campbell production, then you win a complimentary “Don’t Tread On Me” decal tattooed on your forehead…

    Campbell defended his posting of the fact-finder report in a press release issued Tuesday morning.

    “This unelected, unaccountable government bureaucrat has no authority to tell any elected official that he or she must not discuss the expenditure of public money with the public prior to casting a contract vote on May 9, 2013,” he said.

    Campbell added in the release: “My personal counsel stands ready to file suit in federal court against opinion-finder Coburn, the unelected, unaccountable regulatory body known as the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, and the teachers union if any such persons believe they have authority that supersedes the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

    Gee, just a bit of a dog whistle to the Teahadists, wouldn’t you say?…

    Board President Allan Weisel, on behalf of the entire governing body, responded to Campbell’s actions.

    “(The board) disavows and regrets the release of the attorney-client privileged communication, confidential district documents and the fact-finder’s report,” Weisel said in a statement posted on Pennsbury’s website. “This release was the action of an individual board member. The school board is committed to abiding by the rules and regulations of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board in this matter.”

    And in a related matter, this Guest Opinion in today’s Courier Times tells us the following…

    PTO President Amy Waters recently wrote Campbell an email detailing some concerns Edgewood parents have with the changes proposed at their school. He replied with vitriol and condescension, vowing to oppose the PTO’s suggestions simply because the group was too “good at generating noise.” Campbell sounded more like a playground bully rather than a thoughtful leader when he told Waters: “The more aggressive you are in seeking self-interest, the less likely you are to influence me.”

    Campbell has minimized the worries faced by the families who will be required to endure these significant changes. “I have moved several times with my family, including from Switzerland to place a second grader and kindergartner in Pennsbury while in temporary housing,” Campbell wrote. “They survived. We didn’t make a big song and dance about it. We just got on with it.”

    This is no time for superior attitudes or personal attacks. Parents are upset, and rightly so. We need the Pennsbury School Board to approach this difficult problem with a more reasoned, empathetic approach. Simon Campbell should apologize to the Edgewood parents and every other family that will be affected by this redistricting plan. And I hope everybody in the Pennsbury School District will go to the polls on May 21, Primary Election Day, to bring about some much-needed change on the Pennsbury School Board.

    (Full disclosure: I know the author of this fine column and her family…great people.)

    Not that I’m some kind of a genius prognosticator by any means, but I told you here that stuff like this would happen when Campbell and his minions took over the Pennsbury school board (here – last bullet).

    Simon wants a strike, people. And the way things are going, he may very well get it.

    Update 5/10/13: And this is another Campbell disgrace.

  • Moving on to foreign policy stuff, I should bring you this item from Pulitzer Prize-winning (ugh) columnist Bret Stephens of the Murdoch Street Journal here (on the subject of Obama, Syria, and our “friends” in Israel, with Stephens imagining that Number 44 will do absolutely nothing)…

    …As the Assad regime realizes it can use these weapons without international penalty, it will unleash them again. Sooner or later it will figure out that the more widely it uses them, the quicker it can kill enemies at home and deter enemies abroad. A twofer. The administration will go from arguing that it’s too soon to intervene in Syria, to arguing that it’s too late.

    What Israel gets from this is a chemical-weapons free-fire zone on its Syrian border, along with the growing likelihood that the weapons will reach Hezbollah’s hands along its Lebanese border. On the plus side, Israel also gets an arms deal from the administration. But the deal consists of selling Israel stuff it already has or doesn’t particularly need, like aerial tankers and V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft, while withholding stuff it doesn’t have and dearly needs, like large bunker-busters and the means of delivering them.

    Umm, I hate to break the news to Stephens, but as noted here from September 2011…

    Newsweek is reporting that Israel has received 55 US-made GBU-28 bunker-busting bombs, citing it as evidence that the US-Israeli military relationship is deeper than ever, despite the bad chemistry between Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu. The other fruit of that relationship, the journalist Eli Lake reports, is an intriguing cooperative venture between Israel and some of its Arab neighbours to set up a radar array to give early warning of an impending Iranian missile attack.

    But of course, such wankery on Obama just comes with the territory as far as Stephens is concerned, as noted here.

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  • Finally for today, I give you the following from Fred Barnes at The Weakly Standard (here…a little late with this bit of Dubya revisionism, I realize)…

    Bush and Obama are both polarizing figures, but for different reasons. Bush’s policies, particularly on Iraq and terrorism, divided Republicans and Democrats sharply. But Obama goes a step further, constantly slamming Republicans and impugning their motives. Obama personally polarizes. Bush didn’t attack Democrats from the White House.

    Truly people, it is to laugh. To begin, I give you this from November 2007…

    WASHINGTON – With Congress and the White House engaged in a long-running feud over war funds, President George W. Bush criticized Democrats on Saturday for holding up money he requested for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

    Bush is seeking $196 billion for the wars for the fiscal year beginning October 1. Democrats who control Congress want to attach a troop pullout plan to the funding bill for the war but lack enough votes to pass the measure in the Senate.

    The White House has warned that Bush would veto any bill with such conditions.

    In his weekly radio address, Bush said Congress was “failing to meet its responsibilities to our troops.”

    “For months, Congress has delayed action on supplemental war funding because some in Congress want to make a political statement about the war,” he said, criticizing Democrats for leaving for their Thanksgiving break without approving the war funds.

    A bill passed this week by the House of Representatives would have given Bush about a quarter of the $196 billion he wants for the wars while setting a goal that all U.S. combat soldiers withdraw from Iraq by December 15, 2008.

    Republicans stopped the measure in the Senate.

    And this from February ’08…

    …Mr. Bush reserved his harshest comments for Mr. Obama’s recent statement that he would be willing to meet the new leader of Cuba, Raúl Castro, “without preconditions.” Mr. Obama has made reviving American diplomacy a centerpiece of his foreign policy agenda, saying he believes it is “important for the United States not just to talk to its friends but also to talk to its enemies.”

    But Mr. Bush has refused to meet with foreign adversaries like Kim Jong-il of North Korea and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. And at the news conference, he let loose with a spirited monologue when asked what would be lost by doing so.

    “What’s lost by embracing a tyrant who puts his people in prison because of their political beliefs?” Mr. Bush said in reference to Mr. Castro, his voice growing louder as he paced about behind the lectern. “What’s lost is it will send the wrong message. It will send a discouraging message to those who wonder whether America will continue to work for the freedom of prisoners.”

    Mr. Bush went on: “I’m not suggesting there’s never a time to talk, but I’m suggesting now is not the time — not to talk with Raúl Castro. He’s nothing more than an extension of what his brother did, which was to ruin an island, and imprison people because of their beliefs.”

    And this from May of that year…

    In a lengthy speech intended to promote the strong alliance between the United States and Israel, the president invoked the emotionally volatile imagery of World War II to make the case that talking to extremists was no different than appeasing Hitler and the Nazis.

    “Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along,” Mr. Bush said. “We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: “Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.” We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.”

    The Obama campaign issued an angry response to Mr. Bush’s statement. In an e-mail statement to reporters, the senator denounced Mr. Bush for using the 60th anniversary of Israel to “launch a false political attack,” adding, “George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists, and the president’s extraordinary politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people or our stalwart ally Israel.”

    And here is another instance in which Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History criticized Democrats as Nazi appeasers, or something, on the matter of terrorism, which is funny when you realize on whose watch Osama bin Laden was killed and on whose watch OBL got away (one of the many good reasons to see Dubya leave is that he took that idiotic, baiting language with him).

    And by the way, Bush actually said this in February 2004 (too artful, courtesy of his head speechwriter and now WaPo pundit Michael Gerson, to attack Dems by name, but everybody knew who he and Dubya were talking about – the reception was hosted by The Mittster, by the way)…

    Some of our opponents are skeptical that the war on terror is really a war at all. They view terrorism more as a crime — a problem to be solved with law enforcement and indictments. Our nation followed that approach after the World Trade Center was bombed in 1993. The matter was handled in the courts, and thought to be settled. But the terrorists were still training in Afghanistan, plotting in other nations, and drawing up more ambitious plans. After the chaos and carnage of September the 11th, it is not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers.

    …and this may be the ultimate “white is black, up is down” quote…

    It’s the President’s job to confront problems, not to pass them on to future Presidents and future generations.

    I rest my case.


  • Friday Mashup (2/15/13)

    February 16, 2013

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  • Never letting dumb stuff like, y’know, facts and actual data get in the way of his talking points (like everyone else in his party apparently), Repug U.S. House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster recently engaged in some name-calling of Number 44 after the State of the Union address on Tuesday (here)…

    I think he’s lying about CEOs — they want to invest in a country that has high-speed rail? Really? Tell me what CEO said that, that cares about high-speed rail,” Shuster said when asked for his thoughts on the speech. “Manufacturers want to invest in a country that has roads that are built, they want the infrastructure to be right for the transportation system, but to say one of the reasons they’re going to invest in America and manufacturing plants is because of high-speed rail is crazy.”

    (Ok everybody, feel free to take a break for a few minutes, since we know what’s coming next…catch up on the laundry or the bills, check the kids’ homework, replace the leaky oil pan in your SUV, get a snack or a cup of coffee…I’ll wait.)

    (Oh, I think Shuster has something else to say now, so let’s resume…)

    “This type of incendiary rhetoric is not my style,” Shuster said at a Chamber of Commerce infrastructure summit after apologizing for his remarks. “I do not think the president is a liar.”

    Later, when asked what he thought of the “fix it first” portion of the speech, Shuster threw his hands up and said, “I started off saying what I shouldn’t have said.”

    In response, I give you the following on the matter of the U.S. and infrastructure here, in which we learn (among other things) the following:

    – China spends 7 percent of its Gross Domestic Product on its infrastructure. India spends 5 percent. The United States spends less than 2 percent. Engineers think the U.S. will have to spend $2.2 trillion over 5 years to bring the overall grade for infrastructure up to an ‘A.
    – Here’s a sobering statistic: more than 4,400 of the nation’s 85,000 aging dams are considered susceptible to failure, according to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials.
    – The investment needed just to maintain the transit system’s current condition and performance is $7,900,000,000 annually over the next five years, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). It would take between $12,900,000,000 and $14,500,000,000 annually to maintain and improve conditions and performance–a need of about $72,000,000,000 over the next five years. Federal, state, and local investment averaged just $5,400,000,000 annually in recent years.
    – America is known for its huge highways, but with few exceptions (London among them) American traffic congestion is worse than western Europe’s. Average delays in America’s largest cities exceed those in cities like Berlin and Copenhagen. Americans spend considerably more time commuting than most Europeans; only Hungarians and Romanians take longer to get to work. More time on lower quality roads also makes for a deadlier transport network. With some 15 deaths a year for every 100,000 people, the road fatality rate in America is 60% above the (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) average; 33,000 Americans were killed on roads in 2010.

    And from here (by T. Peter Ruane, president and chief executive officer of the Washington-based American Road & Transportation Builders Association )…

    Some might wonder: What about that $800 billion stimulus package that was enacted in 2009? Wasn’t that supposed to solve problems such as this? The answer is depressingly simple: Just 6 percent of that money went to transportation infrastructure and states cut their own transportation spending by almost an equivalent amount. It is indeed unfortunate that we haven’t had more of a debate these past four years — a debate over the physical plant of our nation, over the facilities we all rely on for our health and wealth.

    So basically, I don’t know why (aside from stupid, petty partisan politics of course) Shuster or anyone else is quibbling over what President Obama or anyone else has to say about the need to rebuild our country’s infrastructure; money is cheap, and this is the time to spend it and invest in the future.

    I should also point out that “Tiger Beat on the Potomac,” as Esquire’s Charles Pierce astutely refers to Politico, called the story an “apology” from Shuster. To yours truly, however, it looked like nothing of the kind.

  • Next, I should note that there’s a reason why economists should be on the Sunday gab fests more often discussing financial matters as opposed to Beltway media talking heads; Fred Barnes of The Weakly Standard attempts to discuss money matters, and hilarity ensues (here)…

    Obama, though, was on-message (during the State of the Union address), just as he was in his inaugural address three weeks ago. He wants to spend more. He wants the government to do more (except overseas). And he isn’t much worried about the possibility of a debt crisis. He leaves it to Republicans to worry about things like the debt-to-GDP ratio.

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

    (The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities) goes on to advocate another $1.4 trillion in revenue and/or spending cuts, which would bring the debt ratio at the end of the decade back down to around its current level. But the larger message here is surely that for the next decade, the debt outlook actually doesn’t look all that bad.

    True, there are projected problems further down the road, mainly because of the continuing effects of an aging population. But it still comes as something of a shock to realize that at this point reasonable projections do not, repeat do not, show anything resembling the runaway deficit crisis that is a staple of almost everything you hear, including supposedly objective news reporting.

    So you heard it here first: while you weren’t looking, and the deficit scolds were doing their scolding, the deficit problem (such as it was) was being mostly solved. Can we now start talking about unemployment?

    And where exactly did that $1.4 (or so) trillion come from exactly? As noted here (in a post where Mr.-Puppy-Dog-Eyes-With-The-Shiv now embraces the “sequester,” due to cause the pain he professed to oppose on the campaign trail last year)…

    Days before House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) abandoned negotiations with President Obama to advance his failed Plan B, the White House paired a tax increase on the richest Americans with spending cuts of $1.22 trillion over 10 years, including “adopting a new measure of inflation that slows the growth of government benefits, especially Social Security.” Despite Ryan’s claims, the Democrats’ plan contained: $400 billion in savings “from federal health care programs; $200 billion from other so-called mandatory programs, like farm price supports, not subject to Congress’s annual spending bills; $100 billion from military spending; and $100 billion from domestic programs under Congress’s annual discretion.”

    Ryan also reiterated that Republicans won’t support additional revenues to turn off the sequester, noting that the American Taxpayer Relief Act — the last minute law that averted the fiscal cliff — included an increase in taxes on couples making more than $450,000 annually and singles making more than $400,000. “The point is, though, the president got his additional revenues. So that’s behind us,” Ryan said on Sunday.

    The comments represent another retreat for Ryan, who backed Mitt Romney’s proposal to raise revenues by eliminating tax loopholes and deductions for the wealthiest Americans. Those reforms were not included in the American Taxpayer Relief Act and could be part of a package that reforms tax breaks for high-income individuals and corporations, generating “$1 trillion in potential savings over 10 years” — more than enough to replace the sequester.

    But of course, since we’re talking about the Beltway…well, If it isn’t good news for Republicans somehow, then it must be bad news for Democrats, as noted here

    The president mentioned the coming sequester, but Douglas Elmendorf, the director of the Congressional Budget Office, told the Senate’s Committee on the Budget, that he can’t score the proposal to replace the sequester because he hasn’t yet seen “a specific proposal.” The sequester was the president’s idea, though he now suggests it came from Congress. The House has proposed targeted spending cuts that protect defense. Those proposals have gone nowhere in the Senate.

    Yes, the sequester did come from Obama, but Congress voted on it and approved it, with “Man Tan” Boehner saying he got “98 percent” of what he wanted in it here (and maybe this tells us why the proposals have “gone nowhere” in the Senate…because of military push-back, that is).

    And while we continue to dither away over this temporary nonsense, our roads continue to crumble, our bridges continue to wear, and our planet continues to melt.

  • Further, The Doughy Pantload is unintentionally hilarious here yet again…”oh, it’s ‘too trite’ to compare Obama to W.E.B. DuBois and the Repugs to Booker T. Washington…but I will anyway”…

    In an earlier era, Dr. Benjamin Carson’s speech before the National Prayer Breakfast last week would have been a really big deal rather than mere fodder for a brief squall on Twitter and cable news.

    Born in crushing poverty to an illiterate single mother dedicated to seeing her children succeed, Carson became the head of the department of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins medical institutions when he was 33. He’s been a black celebrity role model ever since.

    So what’s the deal with Dr. Carson anyway? As Jonah Goldberg tells us…

    Although much of Carson’s speech focused on personal responsibility, he offered two concrete policy ideas. The first is a flat tax. The Bible endorses the idea, Carson explained. Everyone should tithe — give 10 percent — in good times and bad. It doesn’t have to be 10 percent, he conceded. It’s the principles of proportionality and simplicity that matter.

    I don’t know about the Bible, but as far as Utah is concerned, that state passed a flat tax and quickly ran into funding problems, as noted here (and oh yes, what would our lives be like without another conservative lecture on “personal responsibility”?).

    Continuing…

    Critics complain that the poor guy who puts in $1 will be hurt more than the rich guy who puts in $1 billion. But, Carson asks: “Where does it say you’ve got to hurt the [rich] guy? He just put a billion dollars in the pot. We don’t need to hurt him. It’s that kind of thinking that has resulted in 602 banks in the Cayman Islands.”

    Oh, so it’s the fault of that baaad Kenyan Muslim Socialist in the White House that our august captains of industry have to shelter their booty offshore, isn’t it? Uh huh.

    Meanwhile, it looks like the U.S. loses about $280 bil a year in offshore accounts, as noted here, and this tells us what the IRS plans to do about it (have to assume it’s legal unless I know otherwise, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t stink to high heaven…and yes, I know about this in a related story, but I don’t think it’s as big of a deal as it was with Romney because, in the latter case, it fit in with a pattern of misbehavior and sanctimony towards the “47 percent” that was truly galling; there’s also a big difference between serving as Treasury Secretary and President of the United States).

  • Finally, I absolutely must say something about the latest from “Chuckles” Krauthammer (here)…

    I find this amazing. First of all, just hearing him say every first grader in America has to be prepared for a high-tech economy, that is a bit early, I think. The other part of this is here we are with $16 trillion in debt, a trillion dollars a year of deficits. We have created already, with under Obama, the biggest entitlement in 50 years. And now he wants to create a new entitlement for preschool for every 4-year-old in the country.

    The worst part of this, this isn’t just any new entitlement. This is an entitlement in an area where we know the $7 billion a year that we spend on Head Start doesn’t make any difference after the third grade. There is a study that HHS has done that showed that. So it’s failure and yet he wants to double down and to make it universal. That’s probably a definition of a liberal.

    Boy, am I sick of defending Head Start against attacks from the wingnutosphere (not attacking the program, I hasten to add).

    As noted here

    …according to Scholastic, “Economists say that the return for every dollar invested in preschool can be anywhere from $2 to $17 when you total the drop in special education, grade repetition, and crime, and add the value of a more productive workforce.” A 2005 study by the University of Texas’ Children’s Learning Institute estimates the return on investment at somewhere between $7 and $8 for every dollar spent, and National Head Start Association study pegs the benefits at $9 returned for every $1 invested in Head Start alone.

    And from here

    At the end of 3rd grade, the most striking sustained subgroup finding was related to children from high risk households. For this subgroup, children in the 3-year old cohort demonstrated sustained cognitive impacts across all the years from pre-K through 3rd grade. At the end of 3rdgrade, the Head Start children from high risk households showed favorable impacts on the ECLS-K Reading Assessment, the WJIII Letter-Word Identification, and the teacher reported reading/language arts skills. This was in contrast to the impacts for children in lower and moderate risk households, for whom there were no impacts. [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, October 2012]

    And from the same link above…

    Head Start’s success over the decades has been built on evidence-based practices. The model, informed by programs like the Perry Preschool, an influential project that tracked children for decades, is constantly adapting — using the best available science and teaching techniques to meet the needs of local communities. [Reuters, 12/27/12]

    And from the same link above…

    Four indicators of economic and social success in adulthood are examined. We find that, for whites, participation in Head Start is associated with a significantly increased probability of completing high school and attending college as well as elevated earnings in one’s early twenties. African Americans who participated in Head Start are significantly less likely to have been charged or convicted of a crime. We also find suggestive evidence that African-American males who attended Head Start are more likely than their siblings to have completed high school. Finally, we uncover some evidence of positive spillovers from older children who attended Head Start to their younger siblings, particularly with regard to criminal behavior. [National Bureau of Economic Research, December 2000]

    I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea.

    Charles Krauthammer is an utterly hacktacular propagandist who will continue to parlay his thoroughly discredited literary dreck in the face of all possible evidence that he is categorically, provably and demonstrably wrong, all for the furtherance of an “ownership society” agenda (them that’s got shall get, them that’s not shall lose, as the song goes) that has been catastrophic for the short, medium and long-term health of our nation.

    That’s probably a definition of a conservative.

    Update 7/9/13: And when it comes to Head Start, maybe “Chuckles” Krauthammer should suck on this (not that he would actually care, I know).


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