Friday Mashup (5/9/14)

May 9, 2014
  • This from clownhall.com tells us the following (with the understated headline of “Guns Don’t Cause Gang Violence – Democrats Do”)…

    Between Friday night, and Sunday evening, 28 people had been shot in Rahm Emanuel’s gun control utopia (Chicago). Which, unbelievably, shows an improvement over the previous weekend, which tacked on more than 40 gunshot victims to the city’s climbing statistics. And, heck, with the CPD’s recent scandal surrounding how they classify various crimes, it almost makes you wonder if these numbers are more “ballpark” figures than actual stats.

    I mean, heck, (gun control) hasn’t exactly worked out that well so far, but why not double down? Right? The fact is, the failure of Liberalism has brought the city to its current state of deterioration. The Chicago model of unconstitutional restrictions on keeping and bearing arms has done little more than add fuel to the fire. Politicians, meanwhile, have been more than happy to ignore the easily identifiable, but politically tricky, origins of gang violence, and criminal activity.

    Yeah, well, this is part and parcel of the wingnut caterwauling on guns I realize. However, did you know that the state of Illinois recently passed a concealed carry law, as noted here?

    Well then, isn’t the Michael Schaus post proof, then, that concealed carry leads to more crime?

    And as noted here, the NRA is pushing for a national concealed carry law that would override other more sensible state laws (the party of “state’s rights” strikes again, considering how “simpatico” the NRA is with the “party of Lincoln”). Which is all part and parcel of this (and by the way, Politifact strikes again on the whole “half true” thing – the U.S. has the highest gun casualty rate among “other affluent nations on a per capita basis,” so that settles it as far as I’m concerned).

  • Next, “The Pericles of Petticoat Junction” is back to inflict the following (here)…

    The qualifications of a Tommy “Dude” Vietor or Ben Rhodes that placed them in the Situation Room during Obama-administration crises were not years of distinguished public service, military service, prior elected office, a string of impressive publications, an academic career, previous diplomatic postings, or any of the usual criteria that have placed others at the nerve center of America in times of crisis. Their trajectory was based on yeoman partisan PR work, and largely on being young, hip, and well-connected politically. I don’t think either of these operatives has a particular worldview or competency that would promote the interests of the United States. But they do talk well, know the right people, and are hip. Again, they have no real expertise or even ideology other than that.

    (The “Dude” reference, for the uninitiated, has to do with Vietor pretty much laughing off more BENGHAZI!!! idiocy from Bret Baier of Fix Noise, which I think was definitely the correct response.)

    So a certain V.D. Hanson is criticizing Vietor and Rhodes because of their ascent in the Obama Administration from a background of “yeoman partisan PR work.”

    Well then, let’s take a look at Obama’s ruinous predecessor, as long as Hanson has opened that “can of worms”:

  • Longtime Bushie Karen Hughes was a “communications strategist” who, as a member of the White House Iraq Group, helped to sell Number 43’s Not-So-Excellent Adventure in Iraq (here).
  • And speaking of the quagmire in Mesopotamia, former PR flak Dan Bartlett once said that his boss “never had a ‘stay the course’ strategy” here (liar).
  • When it comes to PR and marketing, though, I don’t think either Hughes or Bartlett can top Andrew Card, who rose to Chief of Staff and notoriously said here that “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August” in response to the question of why Bushco started beating the drums for war in Iraq in earnest in September 2002.
  • Given this, I would say that, when it comes to “yeoman partisan PR work,” Vietor and Rhodes are chumps by comparison (and speaking of Iraq, more “fun” with Hanson is here).

  • Further, I think it’s time to take a look at some true revisionist wingnuttery on The Sainted Ronnie R, first from Michael Barone here

    Second-term presidents over the last generation have tried, with varying results, to achieve breakthroughs. Ronald Reagan, after cutting tax rates in his first term, called for further cuts combined with elimination of tax preferences that had encrusted the tax code.

    House Ways and Means chairman Dan Rostenkowski and Senate Finance chairman Bob Packwood — a Democrat and a Republican — achieved a historic breakthrough with the tax-reform legislation of 1986, thanks in part to intensive coaching from Treasury Secretary James Baker.

    See, the point of Barone’s screed is that Obama isn’t being “bipartisan” enough for his liking, with Barone’s definition of “bipartisan” being, apparently, to get beaten up and let the Republicans do whatever they want (Barone lists other examples of supposed “bipartisanship” that got things done in Washington).

    I guess that, living in the world of reality, it may not be necessary to point out at every opportunity to you, dear reader, that Number 40 raised taxes a dozen times, as noted here. However, since the other side is constantly trying to form reality to their twisted worldview, I believe that I must engage in this exercise.

    And sticking with the decade in which Reagan took up space in An Oval Office, this post from The Daily Tucker discusses a TV program called “The Americans,” which I guess has to do with Soviet-era spies living in this country.

    So what is this show about, exactly…

    In one recent scene, for example, KGB agent Elizabeth goes off on a standard 80s liberal spiel about the Nicaragua war, complete with hypocritical sympathy for Catholic nuns and dissident journalists.

    Well OK then – it looks like this Will Rahn person isn’t a big fan of ‘80s-era political activism in particular.

    In response, I give you the following from here

    I first confronted this pattern while covering Reagan’s hard-line policies toward Central America. The lies started just weeks after Reagan’s 1980 election, when four American churchwomen were raped and murdered by government security forces in rightist-ruled El Salvador.

    On the night of Dec. 2, 1980, two of the women, Dorothy Kazel and Jean Donovan, drove a white mini-van to the international airport outside San Salvador. There, they picked up Ita Ford and Maura Clarke who had attended a conference in Nicaragua.

    Leaving the airport, the van turned onto the road that heads into the capital city. At a roadblock, a squad of soldiers stopped the van and took the women into custody. After a phone call apparently to a superior officer, the sergeant in charge said the orders were to kill the women. The soldiers raped them first and then executed the women with high-powered rifles.

    The atrocity was only one of hundreds committed each month by the Salvadoran security forces in a “dirty war” against leftists and their suspected supporters, a conflict that was more mass murder than a war, a butchery that would eventually claim some 70,000 lives. The Dec. 2 atrocity stood out only because Americans were the victims.

    The proper response from U.S. officials would have seemed obvious: to join U.S. Ambassador Robert White in denouncing the brutal rape and murder of four American citizens. But the incoming Reagan foreign policy team didn’t see it that way; Reagan was on the side of the rightist Salvadoran military.

    So, the rape-murder was treated like a public relations problem, best handled by shifting blame onto the victims. Jeane Kirkpatrick, Reagan’s choice for United Nations ambassador, depicted the victims as “not just nuns. The nuns were political activists – on behalf of the [leftist opposition] Frente.”

    Kirkpatrick’s implication was that it wasn’t all that bad to rape and murder “political activists.”

    And as far as the “Fourth Estate” is concerned (here)…

    To conceal the truth about the war crimes of Central America, Reagan also authorized a systematic program of distorting information and intimidating American journalists.

    Called “public diplomacy” or “perception management,” the project was run by a CIA propaganda veteran, Walter Raymond Jr., who was assigned to the National Security Council staff. The explicit goal of the operation was to manage U.S. “perceptions” of the wars in Central America.

    The project’s key operatives developed propaganda “themes,” selected “hot buttons” to excite the American people, cultivated pliable journalists who would cooperate and bullied reporters who wouldn’t go along.

    The best-known attacks were directed against New York Times correspondent Raymond Bonner for disclosing Salvadoran army massacres of civilians, including the slaughter of more than 800 men, women and children in El Mozote in December 1981.

    But Bonner was not alone. Reagan’s operatives pressured scores of reporters and their editors in an ultimately successful campaign to minimize information about these human rights crimes reaching the American people. [For details, see Robert Parry’s Lost History.]

    The tamed reporters, in turn, gave the administration a far freer hand to pursue its anticommunist operations throughout Central America.

    Despite the tens of thousands of civilian deaths and now-corroborated accounts of massacres and genocide, not a single senior military officer in Central America was held accountable for the bloodshed.

    The U.S. officials who sponsored and encouraged these war crimes not only escaped any legal judgment, but remained highly respected figures in Washington. Reagan has been honored as few recent presidents have.

    The journalists who played along by playing down the atrocities — the likes of Fred Barnes and Charles Krauthammer — saw their careers skyrocket, while those who told the truth suffered severe consequences.

    And given the BENGHAZI!!! fever currently sweeping the “leadership” of the U.S. House, I think this is a timely article.

  • Continuing, it looks like VA head Eric Shinseki (who, once again, is a huge improvement over his Bushco counterpart) is in hot water, as noted here

    (Reuters) – Two Republican senators on Tuesday joined veterans groups in calling for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign amid claims that up to 40 people died while waiting for treatment in the U.S. veterans’ healthcare system.

    Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas, said the Veterans Affairs Department needed a “true transformation … from top to bottom.”

    “I ask the secretary to submit his resignation and I ask President (Barack) Obama to accept that resignation,” Moran said on the Senate floor.

    Assistant Senate Republican leader John Cornyn said: “The president needs to find a new leader to lead this organization out of the wilderness, and back to providing the service our veterans deserve.”

    As noted here, Cornyn voted against a bill to provide $12 billion in medical, educational and job-training benefits for our veterans returning from the wars (to be fair, Moran voted Yes as noted here).

    However, it’s not as if the Kansas senator doesn’t have his own baggage in these matters. He gave conditional-at-best support here to the military sexual assault bill sponsored by Dem Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. Moran also voted against the Veterans with Disabilities Act (here), despite the request from former Kansas Sen. (and WWII-disabled vet, of course) Bob Dole that Moran and everyone else in the U.S. Senate support it.

    The Reuters story also tells us the following…

    The American Legion, the biggest U.S. veterans’ group, and Concerned Veterans for America called on Monday for Shinseki, a former Army general twice wounded in Vietnam, to step down.

    I’m not going to take issue with The American Legion, but Concerned Veterans for America…hmmm…

    Oh yeah – as noted here, that’s another “dark money” front group for Chuck and Dave Koch (kind of like “Concerned Women of America” who are apparently trying to torpedo a women’s history museum sponsored by Dem Carolyn Maloney and Repug Marsha Blackburn (!), as noted here, with “Moon Unit” Bachmann opposing it even though the plan is for her to be featured in an exhibit – way too funny).

    Returning to the main topic, I don’t know if Gen. Shinseki should resign as head of the VA or not. However, I think it’s more than a bit hypocritical to blame only him for trying to clean up a mess originated by our prior ruling cabal (which he, among a very select few – and more’s the pity on that – actually stood up to, as noted here).

  • Finally (and speaking of war), I give you former Bushco U.N. rep John “Blow ‘Em Up” Bolton (here, with what you might call some “crackpot history” in concert with his claim that President Obama’s recent far east tour didn’t go well since Obama looked tired, or something)…

    In 1932, Secretary of State Henry Stimson declared his “non-recognition” doctrine regarding Japanese aggression in China and subsequent annexations. Although politically symbolic, Stimson’s high-collared moralisms did nothing to deter further Japanese expansionism.

    Years later, when President Roosevelt finally imposed sanctions that could actually inhibit Japan’s military, the increasing likelihood of war against the Nazis was apparent. Pearl Harbor followed, but one can ask if stronger U.S. Asia policies in the 1930’s might have caused a different result.

    Yes, “one” can ask indeed if “one” were a total moron, I suppose. As noted from here

    In 1933, President (Franklin D.) Roosevelt proposed a Congressional measure that would have granted him the right to consult with other nations to place pressure on aggressors in international conflicts. The bill ran into strong opposition from the leading isolationists in Congress, including progressive politicians such as Senators Hiram Johnson of California, William Borah of Idaho, and Robert La Follette of Wisconsin. In 1935, controversy over U.S. participation in the World Court elicited similar opposition. As tensions rose in Europe over Nazi Germany’s aggressive maneuvers, Congress pushed through a series of Neutrality Acts, which served to prevent American ships and citizens from becoming entangled in outside conflicts. Roosevelt lamented the restrictive nature of the acts, but because he still required Congressional support for his domestic New Deal policies, he reluctantly acquiesced.

    The isolationists were a diverse group, including progressives and conservatives, business owners and peace activists, but because they faced no consistent, organized opposition from internationalists, their ideology triumphed time and again. Roosevelt appeared to accept the strength of the isolationist elements in Congress until 1937. In that year, as the situation in Europe continued to grow worse and the Second Sino-Japanese War began in Asia, the President gave a speech in which he likened international aggression to a disease that other nations must work to “quarantine.” At that time, however, Americans were still not prepared to risk their lives and livelihoods for peace abroad. Even the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939 did not suddenly diffuse popular desire to avoid international entanglements. Instead, public opinion shifted from favoring complete neutrality to supporting limited U.S. aid to the Allies short of actual intervention in the war. The surprise Japanese attack on the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor in December of 1941 served to convince the majority of Americans that the United States should enter the war on the side of the Allies.

    And as noted from here

    By 1940, the (Second Sino-Japanese) war descended into stalemate. The Japanese seemed unable to force victory, nor the Chinese to evict the Japanese from the territory they had conquered. But western intervention in the form of economic sanctions (most importantly oil) against Japan would transform the nature of the war. It was in response to these sanctions that Japan decided to attack America at Pearl Harbor, and so initiate World War II in the Far East.

    OK, so, to review:

  • Sanctions against Japan were probably necessary in hindsight, but to try and make the argument that Roosevelt sought them too late and Pearl Harbor might have been prevented is ridiculous. If anything, if sanctions had been imposed earlier, an attack might have happened earlier (again, not saying that sanctions were wrong) when we would have been less adequately prepared to fight it than we were.
  • As the article states above, there was not enough of a “push back” against the isolationist sentiment Roosevelt faced across the political spectrum at home after World War I. And he needed those same senators opposing military action to support the New Deal.
  • I’m not a bit surprised, however, to find out that Bolton knows nothing about that period of history, given that he finished his column with the following (again, using this totally inaccurate reading to justify another attack on Number 44)…

    In December, 1937, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain of all people observed that, “It is always best and safest to count on nothing from the Americans but words.”

    5_fig002
    And the fact that Bolton would say that without a single word of acknowledgment of the price this country paid to defeat the Axis Powers in World War II (particularly repugnant as we approach Memorial Day) tells you how callow and ignorant he truly is.

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    Friday Mashup (2/7/14)

    February 7, 2014
  • I recently read an Op-Ed in the Bucks County Courier Times that supported a bill from PA Repug State Representative Bryan Cutler that would stop the collection of union dues from pay checks, noted in this story (sorry I don’t have the editorial, but it went behind the Courier Times pay wall…I’ll let you, dear reader, take a minute or two to contemplate the truly uproarious notion of a pay wall for the Bucks County Courier Times before I continue).

    The Pennlive story linked to above, in part, tells us the following…

    At a news conference Monday, (Cutler), R-Lancaster County, said his proposal to end government deducting union dues from workers’ paychecks was common sense. Unions use a portion of dues — about 10 percent — for political ads and lobbying, and members can make voluntary political contributions deducted from their paychecks. Knowing a portion of the money is political, the state shouldn’t touch it, Cutler said.

    “I’m not refuting the group’s rights to engage in this kind of activity,” Cutler said. “What I am questioning is the appropriateness of the government collecting political money.” Not surprisingly, the unions see it differently.

    “What is this really about?” asked David Broderic, spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Education Association. “I think what this is really about is preventing people from making voluntary payroll deductions and have the effect of silencing the voice of middle-class Pennsylvanians.”

    Here’s the solution for this alleged problem – leave it up to the individual who is allowing the dues to be collected from his or her paycheck to make the decision, since, as noted above, the contribution is voluntary.

    Besides, under this alleged logic from Cutler, we should also pass a law to make sure that employers don’t automatically deduct 401(k) contributions, for example. Where does it end?

    Oh, but he only wants employers to stop deducting union dues, since that’s political, of course. Dues which are voluntary, let’s not forget (and Cutler says he doesn’t care how the dues are used; no word on whether or not his nose grew when he said that).

    And as a point of reference, this tells us that Dem Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri vetoed a similar scheme by Republican legislators (and this tells us more on who is ultimately responsible for this ridiculous legislation – yep, it’s the Kochs and the PA Commonwealth Foundation).

    The wingnuts and their media acolytes, including the oh-so-august-in-their-imaginations Courier Times Editorial Board, know how deeply unpopular PA Governor Tom “Space Cadet” Corbett is, and they’re pulling out all the stops to try and get him re-elected. That’s what this is about, pure and simple (and here is more typical right-wing idiocy on this subject).

  • Next, I give you some true hilarity from former Repug U.S. Senator Judd Gregg (here)…

    When did all these folks on the left become “progressives,” and what does it mean?

    These are questions that deserve a little discussion because we are no longer being governed by various varieties of liberals but rather by folks who call themselves “progressives,” a label that is enthusiastically disseminated by their allies in the press such as The New York Times and NPR.

    These people’s purpose in governing is to redistribute wealth.

    This has been announced in a rather brash, but at least forthright, way by the new mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio. It is also the goal, albeit less explicitly stated, of the tax policies of President Obama.

    The term for this in an earlier era would have been “socialism.” So why not use that word?

    The answer is, obviously, political.

    Obviously.

    Oh, and by the way, I’ve never lived under a socialist form of government, and neither has Gregg (and I sincerely hope I never do). When you hear talk about a “socialist” leader, do you know who is being discussed?

    Adolf-Hitler-572
    This guy, that’s who (Gregg basically admits that later in his column).

    And “word games”? Does Gregg mean the type that he played here, when he referred to “reconciliation,” used to pass health care reform as “arcane,” even though he approved of the process himself prior to that? Or when he referred to health care reform while in the Senate as “socialized medicine” here (an appropriate observation on the recent birthday of The Sainted Ronnie R)? Or, at the time when he was called upon for specifics on deficit reduction, he said that the MSNBC hosts who were apparently impertinent enough (as far as Gregg was concerned) to ask for specifics were “irresponsible” and “duplicitous” here (STILL can’t believe Obama once considered Gregg for commerce secretary)?

    As far as Gregg’s point about not knowing the difference between a liberal and a progressive, the best explanation I’ve seen on that came from David Sirota here, who said, in essence, that a liberal looks for taxpayer funds to achieve a desired goal, while a progressive seeks to do that through legislation or some other means of governmental reform.

    Gregg, as far as I’m concerned, was a waste of space as a U.S. Senator, and he definitely is not proving to be more than that (probably less, on balance) as a pundit.

    Update 2/10/14: How does it feel to be a token, Dr. Carson? (here)

  • Further, OMIGOD! Run for your lives! It’s the “Obamacare” Navigators!! (here)…

    In his State of the Union address, President Obama mentioned fixing a broken health care system. Unfortunately, the president provided no specifics about how to fix errors already experienced during the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), such as securing ethical and well-screened insurance navigators who handle personal information of health insurance enrollees.

    Dropping the ball on consumer protections, the federal government’s inadequate screening and training process for navigators exposes consumers to serious risks of fraud and identity theft.

    Proof? Anywhere in sight? Hello??

    Meanwhile, Dr. Kavita Patel tells us about the navigator selection and training process here

    They’re really just trying to sign people up for health care…. They went through the requisite 20 hours of training … [they] are people who know the health care system, are from nonprofits in the communities, community health centers. And they actually have gone through a longer period of health care training that will help to get people signed up. … A lot of what they are trying to do is just meet the demands, there are so many people asking questions.

    Let’s not forget also that the Affordable Care Act navigators have been baselessly tied to unions and ACORN (an organization which, let’s not forget, no longer exists) among other related falsehoods noted here.

    And of course, this (and this) tell us that ALEC (the author of this Daily Tucker piece belongs to this outfit – yep, Chuck and Dave are at it again!) isn’t exactly an impartial observer on this issue anyway.

  • Continuing, this tells us the following…

    Lawmakers are pushing to impose federal standards for protecting the country’s electric grid from attack in the wake of a new report about a sniper assault on a California electrical substation last year that has raised fears the power grid is vulnerable to terrorism.

    The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she and fellow senators plan to ask the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has jurisdiction over the electric grid’s reliability, to “set minimum security standards for critical substations.”

    The April 16, 2013 the attack on Pacific Gas & Electric’s Metcalf transmission substation involved snipping AT&T fiber-optic lines to knock out phone and 911 service, and firing shots into a PG&E substation, causing outages. The assault had not been widely publicized until The Wall Street Journal reported new details in a story on Wednesday.

    Actually, Congress was ready to pass something in 2010 called the Grid Reliability and Infrastructure Defense (GRID) Act here (maybe not the catchiest acronym, but it gets to the point), which “amends the Federal Power Act to give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authority to issue emergency orders to protect the electricity grid from a cyber-attack, electromagnetic weapon attack, a geomagnetic storm, or a direct physical attack on the bulk-power system or defense critical electric infrastructure.”

    The Act, believe it or not, passed the U.S. House unanimously. However, it died in the U.S. Senate. Why?

    Because Repug U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska killed it, that’s why (here). And as nearly as I can determine, she objected to the regulatory enforcement provisions.

    As noted here from 2011…

    Murkowski, R-Alaska, today called on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to immediately initiate a formal process to address electricity reliability issues raised by the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory agenda.

    In a letter to FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff, Murkowski requested the commission provide, within six months, a thorough analysis of the cumulative impact that proposed EPA regulations could have on the reliability of the nation’s power grid. Murkowski mentioned the Utility MACT and Cross State Air Pollution rules specifically as being of concern, and said FERC should conduct its analysis in concert with the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) and the Electric Reliability Organization it has certified.

    “The pace and aggressiveness of these environmental regulations should be adjusted to reflect and consider the overall risk to the bulk power system,” Murkowski said, quoting NERC’s 2010 Special Reliability Scenario Assessment. “The regional nature of the nation’s power system does not allow for the seamless transfer of power from any point in the country to any other, which means power outages could occur in a particular region even though excess generation exists elsewhere.”

    And how exactly is that different from what we have right now anyway? Do you know, dear reader, that Texas has its own grid, for example?

    It’s not a bit out of character to see Murkowski objecting to increased regulatory enforcement given her prior related votes as noted here (hooked on fossil fuel donations also, as noted here). However, her “dependency,” if you will, manifest in her opposition to increased regulatory enforcement, has now led us to the point where we’re exposing our vital infrastructure to increased risk of attack, to say nothing of the slow suffocation of this planet as a whole.

  • Finally, I shouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see conservatives dumping on the grave of the recently deceased Pete Seeger, as Paul Kengor does here

    Seeger’s most disturbing work as a Marxist minstrel was his crooning for “The Almanacs,” which historian Ron Radosh – himself a former red-diaper baby – calls a “communist folk-singing group.” At varying times, “The Almanacs” included Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Burl Ives, and Will Geer, later known as “Grandpa” on TV’s “The Waltons.” Seeger founded the group in 1941.

    The most egregious work by “The Almanacs” was its propaganda for the insidious American Peace Mobilization, which Congress identified as “one of the most seditious organizations which ever operated in the United States” and “one of the most notorious and blatantly communist fronts ever organized.” Founded in 1940, the objective of the American Peace Mobilization was to keep America out of the war against Hitler. This also meant no Lend-Lease money to Britain.

    Why did the American Peace Mobilization take such a position? It did so because Hitler signed an alliance with Stalin. For American communists, any friend of Stalin was a friend of theirs. They literally swore an oath, formally pledging to a “Soviet America” and to “the triumph of Soviet power in the United States.” They were unflinchingly devout Soviet patriots.

    I’m not going to try and unpackage all of this stuff from Kengor – I’m sure there’s truth scattered amidst the wingnuttery – but I do want to point out something about those who opposed this country’s entry into World War II.

    Kengor’s column doesn’t mention the America First Committee, which also opposed entry into World War II. And who were members of that group, you ask?

    As noted here

    Progressive senators may have helped the Committee, but its most important supporters were a core group of Republican Chicago businessmen. Chief among them was General Robert Wood, CEO of Sears, Roebuck, who had replaced the impossibly young R. Douglas Stuart as president of America First. Wood had served during the First World War as acting Quartermaster General of the army. After joining Marshall Field in the immediate post-war period, he later moved to Sears, Roebuck, eventually becoming president, and finally, in 1939, chairman of the board. Like (progressive Senator Gerald) Nye (of North Dakota), Wood had originally supported some of Roosevelt’s policies, including the AAA, the SEC and Social Security. But he had rebelled against excessive taxation that he believed was undermining capitalism.[22] Other Chicago businessmen, such as meat packers Jay Hormel and Philip Swift, and William J. Grace, head of one of Chicago’s largest investment firms, had never supported the president. All became key Committee members. Colonel Robert J. McCormick, owner of the Chicago Tribune, was the most influential of all. A passionate Roosevelt hater and Anglophobe, his paper became an important disseminator of AFC propaganda.

    Soooo…because Robert Wood, CEO of Sears Roebuck, Jay Hormel, William J. Grace and Robert J. McCormick also opposed entry into World War II, does that make them “unflinchingly devout Soviet patriots” also?

    That’s what happens when you paint with a broad brush, of course – sometimes you splatter people unintentionally (and yeah, I’m aware of that too).

    It’s typically low for Kengor to attack Pete Seeger after the man is dead and can’t defend himself. However, to be fair, I know I take a lot of well-deserved shots at The Sainted Ronnie R and Jesse Helms, for example, and they can’t defend themselves either. Still, though, I think they should be held to a separate standard since they were entrusted to act in the interest of a particular constituency.

    As for Seeger and his world-renowned ability to move people through his craft, I’m sure that, had he pursued a career in public life, he would have enriched himself materially to a greater degree than he did by taking the course he chose.

    28pete-seeger3
    I would argue, though, that Seeger’s gift to all of us, through his music and activism, is greater than any material sum that could ever be amassed by anyone on earth.


  • 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.

  • gwb_13-george-w-bush

  • 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.


  • Thursday Mashup (3/7/13)

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Oh, and I almost forgot this choice item…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Continuing, I wanted to point out the following here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • goldberg

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

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

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

    You son of a bitch…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  • Monday Mashup (12/7/09)

    December 7, 2009

  • 1) In case anyone somehow isn’t aware of it, today is the 68th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and in yesterday’s New York Times, writer James Bradley blamed the attack on…Theodore Roosevelt.

    Really.

    Bradley makes the case here that, while brokering peace in the Russo-Japanese War (for which Roosevelt won a Nobel Prize, and thus earning wingnut enmity I’m sure for a president then as now), Roosevelt secretly encouraged Japanese imperialist ambitions which culminated in the attack on Pearl Harbor while TR’s fifth cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, occupied the White House.

    Well, I think this critique of Bradley’s book “The Imperial Cruise,” about some kind of secret deal supposedly brokered by Roosevelt war secretary William Howard Taft which allowed for Japanese expansion, echoes much of what was wrong with Bradley’s Times column yesterday, notably that “Bradley says these agreements later came to light and then were forgotten by Americans. But he doesn’t explain why, in the 1930s, imperial Japan would act on the secret words of a man dead for more than a decade and out of office since 1909.”

    Of course, you could argue that Japan launched war against the U.S. because it thought we would immediately seek peace, not wishing to fight a “second front” since we were readying for war in Europe. And of course, there are those who thought FDR surreptitiously sought a way to involve us and allowed Pearl Harbor to happen (which I also disagree with, along with the notion of TR’s blame).

    But those latter two explanations are cold comfort to conspiracy theorists, since they don’t have the burden of the cold, hard logic of reality.

  • 2) Also in yesterday’s New York Times magazine, Matt Bai decried here the revolving door of sorts between the political and pundit class in Washington, D.C. (though, seriously, if it were any other way, he would have a lot less to write about, wouldn’t he?).

    And in so doing, he tells us the following…

    All of this has created an upside-down dynamic in Washington. For most of the country’s existence, prospective candidates have relied on their news-media ties to catapult them into office. As far back as the 19th century, the newspaperman Horace Greeley used his New York Tribune as a platform for his political career; more recently, Ronald Reagan made his radio commentaries the basis for a campaign agenda. Now, however, we may be confronting the opposite phenomenon: some politicians seem to seek office mostly for the purpose of landing on TV. How else to adequately explain the calculated outrageousness of obscure backbenchers like the Republican congresswoman Michele Bachmann (who said Obama was practicing “economic Marxism” and worried that the census could lead to another internment of American citizens) and her Democratic colleague Alan Grayson (who called one lobbyist a “whore” and other Republicans “knuckle-dragging Neanderthals”)?

    Of course, Bai could have told us that Grayson apologized (as noted here), but Bai chose not to do so. And to be fair, Moon Unit Bachmann apologized for calling Obama “anti-American” here, though it should be noted that she was still running for re-election in ‘08 at the time.

  • 3) Also, I was not able to find the following online from David Herszenhorn of the New York Times, though it did appear in the Sunday print edition (about how our poor, put-upon U.S. Senators actually had to work Sunday on health care legislation, and what it did to their schedules of Sunday worship – and no, I don’t know why this is considered to be “news” either)…

    As the Senate geared up for its first weekend of debate on the health care legislation, lawmakers made plans to break from the rituals of governing to allow time for the rituals of religion.

    Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut and an observant Jew, was prepared to vote on Saturday the Jewish Sabbath, following his longtime custom when it comes to important issues, said a spokesman, Marshall Wittmann. Mr. Lieberman would walk to the Capitol, not drive.

    And the Republican leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who is a Baptist, has secured an agreement from Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader (strange that “majority leader” was initial lower case in H.’s story, since it’s a title), Democrat of Nevada and a Mormon, that senators will have Sunday morning off so they can go to church.

    “I think it very likely that we wouldn’t come in until noon or somewhere around noon on Sunday,” Mr. Reid said.

    At the same time, St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church on Capitol Hill has warned parishioners that because the Senate planned to be in session Sunday, they might not have access to a government parking lot that is normally used for parishioners.

    Oh, and by the way, this snark is noteworthy…

    The Senate Republicans’ appeal for time to go to church is just about the only Republican procedural request that Democrats have not suggested was a stalling tactic.

    Still, the calendar between now and the end of the year looks tighter than ever. Even with time off for Sabbath services, there is no sign of a day of rest anytime soon.

    Awww, poor babies!

    And by the way, maybe Herszenhorn didn’t see this from Politico (they actually get some reporting right every now and then, usually when Mike Allen isn’t involved), but it describes a memo circulated by Senate Repug Judd Gregg on doing whatever it could to “stall” on the matter of health care reform in particular (h/t Think Progress). So given that, I don’t know why it should be assumed that the Repugs wouldn’t do all they could to slow legislation.

    And in another Herszenhorn column on health care reform (particularly the public option and the “opt out” provision – I know why all Senate Repugs and some Democrats are fighting it, but given its overwhelming support, their antics are particularly despicable), he concludes with the following…

    Two pivotal centrists, Senators Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, and Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, said they could not support any of these proposals being floated by Democrats.

    “The public option is really a government-created and government-run insurance company,” Mr. Lieberman said. “It won’t help a single poor person get insurance.”

    It really is true about how The Last Honest Man is allowed to lie with impunity, my fellow prisoners.

    And I must admit that I really don’t know how directly to respond to such a bogus charge, except to point to this column from Chris Hayes of The Nation, in which he tells us the following…

    Red, rural states would almost all probably opt out and yet it’s rural America that needs the public option the most. As the Center for Community Change points out in a new report [PDF] people who live in rural areas are a) more likely to be underinsured, because fewer people receive insurance from their employers and b) live in markets where there is essentially no competition. In Alabama one health insurance company has 90% market share, in South Dakota, it’s two companies. It’s under these circumstances where the public option is most needed.

    And it should also be noted here that Holy Joe has thus far refused to appear on The Rachel Maddow Show to defend his claims against the public option and health care reform in general, so that tells you how ridiculous his arguments truly are.

  • 4) And speaking of ridiculous, CNN pundit Mary Matalin tells us the following here…

    Washington (CNN) – A leading Republican strategist and one-time aide to former Vice President Cheney said Sunday that President Obama’s recently announced decision to send an additional 30, 000 troops to Afghanistan is “a reassertion of the Bush doctrine.”

    “The [Bush] doctrine is no safe havens [for terrorists intent on harming the United States] and we go after those that provide a harbor [for such terrorists]. That’s the doctrine,” Republican strategist Mary Matalin explained Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.

    The problem for Democrats,” Matalin also said Sunday, “is that they’ve bashed Bush strategy and tactics for so long and now they have to embrace them because they’re the only ones that do work.”

    Oh, that’s funny!

    In the matter of “Bush strategy and tactics,” let’s compare how our current chief executive has arrived at his own war strategy (whether you agree with it or not, and truth be told, I don’t), versus his predecessor.

    First, here is an excerpt from a Times story by Peter Baker which tells us the following…

    The three-month review that led to the escalate-then-exit strategy is a case study in decision making in the Obama White House — intense, methodical, rigorous, earnest and at times deeply frustrating for nearly all involved. It was a virtual seminar in Afghanistan and Pakistan, led by a president described by one participant as something “between a college professor and a gentle cross-examiner.”

    Mr. Obama peppered advisers with questions and showed an insatiable demand for information, taxing analysts who prepared three dozen intelligence reports for him and Pentagon staff members who churned out thousands of pages of documents.

    Now, let’s take a Tragical History Tour back about five and a half years concerning Obama’s predecessor (in a Times column by Bob Herbert)…

    Condi Rice was in Washington trying to pass her oral exam before the 9/11 commission yesterday, and the president was on vacation in Texas. As usual, they were in close agreement, this time on the fact that neither they nor anyone else in this remarkably aloof and arrogant administration is responsible for the tragic mess unfolding in Iraq, and its implications for the worldwide war on terror.

    The president called Ms. Rice from his pickup truck on the ranch to tell her she had done a great job before the panel.

    It doesn’t get more surreal than that.

    Mr. President, there’s a war on. You might consider hopping a plane to Washington.

    It’s hard to imagine that the news out of Iraq could be more dreadful. After the loss of at least 634 American troops and the expenditure of countless billions of dollars, we’ve succeeded in getting the various Iraqi factions to hate us more than they hate each other. And terrorists are leaping on the situation in Iraq like rats feasting on a mound of exposed cheese.

    The administration has no real plan on how to proceed. It doesn’t know how many troops are needed. It doesn’t know, in the long term, where they will come from. It doesn’t know whether it can meet the June 30 deadline for turning over sovereignty to the Iraqis. (It doesn’t know what sovereignty in this context even means. June 30 was an arbitrary date selected with this year’s presidential campaign in mind.) It doesn’t have a cadre of Iraqi leaders to accept the handoff of sovereignty. And so on.

    When you open the door to get a look at the Bush policy on Iraq, you find yourself staring into an empty room.

    Meanwhile, people are dying.

    But just remember that Obama has copied “Bush’s strategy and tactics.”

    And just to remind us, Matalin said this on CNN.

    We’ll have to “leave it there.”


  • A Double-Barreled Dubya Disgrace

    September 14, 2009

    gwb_13-george-w-bush
    Via HuffPo, this article from The Atlantic last Friday tells us the following…

    (Last) Thursday’s annual Census Bureau report on income, poverty and access to health care-the Bureau’s principal report card on the well-being of average Americans-closes the books on the economic record of George W. Bush.

    It’s not a record many Republicans are likely to point to with pride.

    On every major measurement, the Census Bureau report shows that the country lost ground during Bush’s two terms. While Bush was in office, the median household income declined, poverty increased, childhood poverty increased even more, and the number of Americans without health insurance spiked. By contrast, the country’s condition improved on each of those measures during Bill Clinton’s two terms, often substantially.

    Bush’s record on poverty is equally bleak. When Clinton left office in 2000, the Census counted almost 31.6 million Americans living in poverty. When Bush left office in 2008, the number of poor Americans had jumped to 39.8 million (the largest number in absolute terms since 1960.) Under Bush, the number of people in poverty increased by over 8.2 million, or 26.1 per cent. Over two-thirds of that increase occurred before the economic collapse of 2008.

    The trends were comparably daunting for children in poverty. When Clinton left office nearly 11.6 million children lived in poverty, according to the Census. When Bush left office that number had swelled to just under 14.1 million, an increase of more than 21 per cent.

    The story is similar again for access to health care. When Clinton left office, the number of uninsured Americans stood at 38.4 million. By the time Bush left office that number had grown to just over 46.3 million, an increase of nearly 8 million or 20.6 per cent.

    The trends look the same when examining shares of the population that are poor or uninsured, rather than the absolute numbers in those groups. When Clinton left office in 2000 13.7 per cent of Americans were uninsured; when Bush left that number stood at 15.4 per cent. (Under Bush, the share of Americans who received health insurance through their employer declined every year of his presidency-from 64.2 per cent in 2000 to 58.5 per cent in 2008.)

    When Clinton left the number of Americans in poverty stood at 11.3 per cent; when Bush left that had increased to 13.2 per cent. The poverty rate for children jumped from 16.2 per cent when Clinton left office to 19 per cent when Bush stepped down.

    So the summary page on the economic experience of average Americans under the past two presidents would look like this:

    Under Clinton, the median income increased 14 per cent. Under Bush it declined 4.2 per cent.

    Under Clinton the total number of Americans in poverty declined 16.9 per cent; under Bush it increased 26.1 per cent.

    Under Clinton the number of children in poverty declined 24.2 per cent; under Bush it increased by 21.4 per cent.

    Under Clinton, the number of Americans without health insurance, remained essentially even (down six-tenths of one per cent); under Bush it increased by 20.6 per cent.

    The article also provides comparative information on the presidencies of Poppy Bush and The Sainted Ronnie R, though I would argue that that doesn’t help Dubya at all (I have to admit that I was surprised to learn that real income grew under Reagan, though so did both childhood and adult poverty).

    Also, the New York Times published an extensive feature article yesterday on water pollution focusing on Charleston, West Virginia, though a series of articles will follow this one focusing on other states…

    Jennifer Hall-Massey knows not to drink the tap water in her home near Charleston, W.Va.

    In fact, her entire family tries to avoid any contact with the water. Her youngest son has scabs on his arms, legs and chest where the bathwater — polluted with lead, nickel and other heavy metals — caused painful rashes. Many of his brother’s teeth were capped to replace enamel that was eaten away.

    Neighbors apply special lotions after showering because their skin burns. Tests show that their tap water contains arsenic, barium, lead, manganese and other chemicals at concentrations federal regulators say could contribute to cancer and damage the kidneys and nervous system.

    “How can we get digital cable and Internet in our homes, but not clean water?” said Mrs. Hall-Massey, a senior accountant at one of the state’s largest banks.

    She and her husband, Charles, do not live in some remote corner of Appalachia. Charleston, the state capital, is less than 17 miles from her home.

    “How is this still happening today?” she asked.

    An excellent question – basically, what we learn from the article is that we’d made a lot of progress in water cleanup efforts until about the last ten years or so, when everything started to slide backwards (we also learn about how politicians have taken their marching orders from the polluters to fire inspectors for trying to do their jobs; the story tells us about a man named Matthew Crum who suffered this fate – as far as I’m concerned, Crum is a great American).

    And a big reason why we’ve fallen down on water safety is as follows (you knew what was coming, didn’t you?)…

    Enforcement lapses were particularly bad under the administration of President George W. Bush, (E.P.A.) employees say. “For the last eight years, my hands have been tied,” said one E.P.A. official who requested anonymity for fear of retribution. “We were told to take our clean water and clean air cases, put them in a box, and lock it shut. Everyone knew polluters were getting away with murder. But these polluters are some of the biggest campaign contributors in town, so no one really cared if they were dumping poisons into streams.”

    The E.P.A. administrators during the last eight years — Christine Todd Whitman, Michael O. Leavitt and Stephen L. Johnson — all declined to comment.

    Of course – however, the following should also be noted…

    In statements, E.P.A. officials noted that from 2006 to 2008, the agency conducted 11,000 Clean Water Act and 21,000 Safe Drinking Water Act inspections, and referred 146 cases to the Department of Justice. During the 2007 to 2008 period, officials wrote, 92 percent of the population served by community water systems received water that had no reported health-based violations.

    The Clean Water Act, (lawmakers and environmentalists say), should be expanded to police other types of pollution — like farm and livestock runoff — that are largely unregulated. And they say Congress should give state agencies more resources, in the same way that federal dollars helped overhaul the nation’s sewage systems in the 1970s.

    Some say changes will not occur without public outrage.

    “When we started regulating water pollution in the 1970s, there was a huge public outcry because you could see raw sewage flowing into the rivers,” said William D. Ruckelshaus, who served as the first head of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Richard M. Nixon, and then again under President Ronald Reagan.

    “Today the violations are much more subtle — pesticides and chemicals you can’t see or smell that are even more dangerous,” he added. “And so a lot of the public pressure on regulatory agencies has ebbed away.”

    And as noted here, The Supreme Court of Hangin’ Judge JR has played a particularly nefarious role in all this, especially in the ruling linked to above which overturned a Court of Appeals verdict and allowed 4.5 million tons of lethal mining waste to be dumped into Alaska’s Lower Slate Lake, with the full knowledge that doing so would exterminate all life in the lake (somehow, though, The Supremes, by a 6-3 ruling… Ginsburg, Souter and Stevens dissented…determined that doing this was “less environmentally damaging than other options” – yep, you read that correctly).

    Fortunately, the Clean Water Restoration Act was introduced by Sen. Russ Feingold here; no vote has been scheduled yet, but one should be with all speed (so many Bushco screwups to fix, so little time, I know).

    Finally, in a Bushco-related matter, The Philadelphia Inquirer decided to give column space to Torture Yoo again today (the appropriate takedown from Will Bunch via Atrios is here).

    Bunch takes on the main issue of Yoo’s past culpability head-on, of course (with Yoo weighing in against the upcoming Holder investigation of course – pathetic that the Inky doesn’t realize that they’re allowing Yoo to, in essence, try to obstruct justice), though Yoo pointed out something of lesser significance in his column that I still want to address anyway…

    Henry L. Stimson, secretary of state under President Herbert Hoover, once explained the shuttering of the United States’ only code-breaking unit with these words: “Gentlemen do not read each other’s mail.” Unfortunately, we do not live in a world of gentlemen. Stimson realized this in his next cabinet post, as FDR’s secretary of war on the day of Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

    In response, I give you the following from this interesting article about U.S. code breakers during World War II…

    Fifty years ago–and more than a year before Pearl Harbor–Americans scored one of their most brilliant victories of World War II.

    The commander was a Russian immigrant and sometime geneticist named William Frederick Friedman. The nature of the battle might be suggested by Friedman’s intense interest once in the 50,000-word novel “Gadsby,” which Ernest Vincent Wrigh wrote without using the letter “e.” Friedman’s troops were a motley assemblage of academics, math wizards and puzzle freaks. With a left-handed assist from William Shakespeare.

    Together, after 18 baffling months of dead-end days and floor-walking nights that temporarily collapsed Friedman into a mental ward, they broke the Japanese diplomatic code.

    Their collective genius did not foil, of course, the sneak Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that brought the United States actively into the war. Crossed and sometimes disconnected wires in American intelligence enabled that. But code breaking by Friedman, et al., laid the groundwork for the pivotal victory of the U.S. fleet at Midway in June, 1942. Indeed, code breaking was an essential ingredient of the Allies’ ultimate triumph.

    Yes, the quote from Stimson is accurate, though how Yoo could claim to know what Stimson “realized” 78 years ago is laughable (and assuming some fault lies with Stimson for Pearl Harbor – which, to me, is debatable at best – I cannot think of a word for the egomania of someone criticizing past history who belonged to a regime that had its own problems with “crossed and sometimes disconnected wires in American intelligence,” to the point where the result of that circumstance was observed just about eight years ago today).

    Update 9/15/09: Yep, this egotistical jackass would know all about “five-spiral crashes,” wouldn’t he?

    Update 9/23/09: Of course…


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