Saturday, March 13, 2010
...and speaking of health care, let's see if our corporate media decides to pay as much attention to this as they have to those teabaggin' wingnuts...
Update 3/26/10: I knew the teabaggers were idiots because they were racists, but now I know they're idiots because they don't even know what they believe in (here).
...and by the way, while those arbiters of our discourse with initials for names wring their metaphorical hands over the business with Charles Rangel, David Paterson and Eric Massa, we should consider the following also (something amiss in The Empire State, it seems...yes, I know, two or three or four wrongs don't make a right, but still)...
...and I must admit that it took me a few minutes to think of an appropriate song for Keith and his dad; most songs about fathers and sons involve conflict, good tunes though they may be ("Cat's In The Cradle" by Harry Chapin and "Father and Son" by Cat Stevens), and there's also a really good tune out there by a college-club-circuit group called Uncle Bonsai ("Silent Night," though it's a daughter and father), but even though relationships are never perfect for anyone, I have a feeling that this tune is appropriate (no video, just check out the words...I lost my dad almost 18 years ago - I remember).
HouseSo just remember, the next time you hear “Man Tan” Boehner or any other Repug braying “where are the jobs” as he did here, these characters are talking out of both sides of their collective face as usual, as evidenced by their near-universal opposition to this bill (though, as you can see from here, six brave souls of that party actually voted yes).
Jobs creation. Voting 217-201, the House passed a jobs bill (HR 2847) that would temporarily exempt businesses from having to pay the 6.2 percent employer's share of Social Security withholding taxes on workers they hire this year from the jobless ranks. Employers also would receive a $1,000 tax credit for each new hire who stays on the job for one year. The two incentives are designed to put 300,000 people back to work at a cost to the Treasury of about $13 billion.
A yes vote was to pass the bill.
Voting yes: John Adler (D., N.J.), Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), and Joe Sestak (D., Pa.).
Voting no: Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).
Not voting: Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.)
And just to remind us, Rachel Maddow tells us once more of how the Repugs claim to be opposed to something they actually support.
Abusive student discipline. Voting 262-153, the House passed a bill (HR 4247) setting federal standards and authorizing grants to states to curb the abusive discipline of K-12 students in public and private schools. Now before the Senate, the bill addresses practices such as duct-taping and other forcible restraints that inflict harm, seclusion in locked rooms, and the application of drugs not prescribed by the student's doctor.So Pitts is now pro-forcible restraint including duct taping, secluding students in locker rooms, and applying non-doctor prescribed drugs.
A yes vote was to pass the bill.
Voting yes: Adler, Andrews, Brady, Castle, Dent, Fattah, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy, Schwartz, Sestak, and Smith.
Voting no: Pitts.
Every time I think Pancake Joe can’t possibly sink any lower, he does (and to do something about it, click here).
SenateThis amendment, by the way, was sponsored by teabagger hero Scott Brown (and this tells us why voting it down was a good idea).
Jobless, health benefits. Voting 78-19, the Senate sent President Obama a bill (HR 4691) appropriating $10.3 billion to cover a one-month extension of jobless checks for millions of unemployed people with expired benefits. The bill also funds COBRA health insurance for the jobless, transportation projects, national flood insurance, small-business loan programs, and Medicare payments to doctors, among other programs.
A yes vote was to pass the bill.
Voting yes: Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Bob Casey (D., Pa.), Ted Kaufman (D., Del.), Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), and Arlen Specter (D., Pa.).
Not voting: Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.).
Tax cuts, stimulus. Voting 44-56, the Senate defeated an amendment to transfer $80 billion in unspent stimulus funds to a program of temporary payroll-tax cuts for the U.S. workforce. The relief would be capped at $500 per person or $1,000 per couple over six months. The amendment was proposed to a bill (HR 4213) extending safety-net benefits and business and personal tax breaks for the remainder of the year. The bill remained in debate.
A yes vote backed the amendment.
Voting no: Carper, Casey, Kaufman, Lautenberg, Menendez, and Specter.
This week, the House debated the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and a bid to impeach Louisiana U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr. The Senate debated an extension of safety-net benefits and certain business and personal tax breaks for the remainder of the year.
Friday, March 12, 2010
Now, to the videos...I love the line about Fix Noise being "the meanest sorority" (and I thought humanoid anchor Megyn Kelly said polls are unreliable or don't matter, or something - that was in another Stewart clip)...
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Health Care: The Ultimate Last Final Push|
...and yeah, I know I already said something about this over at the Wordpress site here, but Ari Fleischer is such an execrable little toad that he deserves another shot...
Update 3/13/10: Yep, Ari sure is a PR genius, isn't he (here)?
...and I think it takes a special kind of guts to take a family trauma like this that K.O. is going through and to use it in an utterly positive manner to educate and inform people (something else I can throw back in the face of clueless media numbskulls like David Zurawik, who must be on vacation or something since he's been quiet lately - this segment wouldn't stand up to Zurawik's faux equivalency test between Olbermann/Rachel Maddow and Fix Noise)...
...and I gotta tell ya' that I'm bummed over the fact that Stevie Ray Vaughan lost to Rush in radio station WMMR's (in these parts) "MM-March Madness" competition tonight...but just to prove I'm a good sport...
Amnesty International may be best known to American audiences for bringing to light horror stories abroad such as the disappearance of political activists in Argentina or the abysmal conditions inside South African prisons under apartheid. But in a new report on pregnancy and childbirth care in the U.S., Amnesty details the maternal-health care crisis in this country as part of a systemic violation of women's rights.
The report, titled "Deadly Delivery," notes that the likelihood of a woman's dying in childbirth in the U.S. is ﬁve times as great as in Greece, four times as great as in Germany and three times as great as in Spain. Every day in the U.S., more than two women die of pregnancy-related causes, with the maternal mortality ratio doubling from 6.6 deaths per 100,000 births in 1987 to 13.3 deaths per 100,000 births in 2006. (And as shocking as these figures are, Amnesty notes that the actual number of maternal deaths in the U.S. may be a lot higher, since there are no federal requirements to report these outcomes and since data collection at the state and local levels needs to be improved.) "In the U.S., we spend more than any country on health care, yet American women are at greater risk of dying from pregnancy-related causes than in 40 other countries," says Nan Strauss, the report's co-author, who spent two years investigating the issue of maternal mortality worldwide. "We thought that was scandalous."
I very definitely agree. And without getting into particulars, which I am not at liberty to do, I will only say that it is critical for pregnant women to be mindful of their blood pressure. I know very well how important an issue that can be in the event that there are complications (all I'll say about that is that we ended up OK, but it was a real scare).
And while I don't have any kind of "smoking gun, cause and effect" numbers on this, it would stand to reason that emphasizing pre-natal care makes particular sense to try and reverse this over-20-year downward trend of an increased maternal mortality rate.
However, the forces of stupidity have marshaled themselves on this issue, as they have with so many others. Witness Jon Kyl of Arizona here…
Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan, cited statistics showing that nearly 60 percent of insurance plans sold on the individual market do not offer maternity care. "For the women in these plans, or who are attempting to get insurance, no amount of money can buy maternity care that they need."
For Ms. Stabenow, her speech on maternity care was a return to an issue that led to one of the more pointed exchanges during the Senate Finance Committee's recent debate over the health care legislation.
Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, said during the debate that he disagreed with the idea of requiring insurers to provide maternity care because it would raise costs for people who don't need or want the coverage. "I don't need maternity care," Mr. Kyl said. "And so requiring that to be in my insurance policy is something that I don't need and will make the policy more expensive."
Ms. Stabenow interjected: "I think your mom probably did." Mr. Kyl shot back, "Yeah, over 60 years ago my mom did."
Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, in her floor speech…said: "Only 14 states in America require insurance companies to cover maternity care. Imagine, in a country that puts family values first, only 14 states. That will change…"
So, as far as I'm concerned, file all of this under "you get what you pay for" (or, more precisely – and as Kyl, among others, would have it – what you don't pay for).
2) Somebody named Jay Richards over at the AEI blog inflicted the following (here)…
There's something to be said for economies of scale, infrastructure, and military might when it comes to humanitarian aid. But there's also something to be said for local knowledge, religious conviction, and on-the-ground experience.
But not all humanitarian aid programs work so well. In fact, the world's largest one doesn't work so well. The New York Times reports that according to the United Nations' own study, its World Food Program is having a terrible time in Somalia:
As much as half the food aid sent to Somalia is diverted from needy people to a web of corrupt contractors, radical Islamist militants and local United Nations staff members, according to a new Security Council report.
Well, I have a feeling that Richards, the Times and the Security Council should take a look at this…
The World Food Program is challenging a U.N. report that alleges as much as half of the WFP food destined for the needy in Somalia is being diverted to corrupt contractors and Islamist militants. WFP officials say there are a number of inaccuracies contained in the report.
In a statement e-mailed to VOA, a WFP official said the U.N. food agency would welcome an independent investigation into allegations that local WFP contractors and staff members are diverting food and selling them for profit, sometimes to al-Shabab, a radical Islamist movement that is believed to be proxy for al-Qaida in Somalia.
The food diversion allegations against the World Food Program first surfaced last year, prompting the United States to reduce its funding to the agency last year amid concerns that the aid might fall into the hands of extremists.
The WFP official says many of the issues raised in the U.N. Somalia Monitoring Group's report have already been addressed, while parts of the report contain inaccuracies and unsubstantiated claims.
According to the World Food Program, the report, for example, alleges corruption inside the food agency by stating that last year it steered $200 million, or 80 percent of its transportation contracts, to only three Somali businessmen. The World Food Program says the three men received only $41.4 million, or 22 percent of the transportation contracts.
The story also tells us that, concerning 1,000 metric tons of food stolen at a supposedly staged incident in Mogadishu, "the looting incident was not staged and the local contractor subsequently replaced all of the missing food."
Besides, as far as I'm concerned, some pundit purporting to speak on behalf of this country has no right to lecture anyone else in the world about properly dispensing foreign aid, considering this item (from 2004)…
WASHINGTON, Aug 20 (IPS) - Three U.S. senators have called on Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to account for 8.8 billion dollars entrusted to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq earlier this year but now gone missing.
In a letter Thursday, Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon, Byron L Dorgan of North Dakota and Tom Harkin of Iowa, all opposition Democrats, demanded a "full, written account" of the money that was channeled to Iraqi ministries and authorities by the CPA, which was the governing body in the occupied country until Jun. 30.
The loss was uncovered in an audit by the CPA's inspector general. It has not yet been released publicly and was initially reported on the website of journalist and retired U.S. Army Col David Hackworth.
The CPA was terminated at the end of July to make way for an interim Iraqi government, which is in turn scheduled to be replaced by an elected body early in 2005.
"We are requesting a full, written account of the 8.8 billion dollars transferred earlier this year from the CPA to the Iraqi ministries, including the amount each ministry received and the way in which the ministry spent the money," said the letter.
(More of this utterly depressing history is detailed here.)
Here's a thought – Rummy could begin to pay back the dough from the book sales of his autobiography, and the remaining balance should be attached to any further income generated by his estate in perpetuity (as a taxpayer who was ripped off, that's an "economy of scale" that works for me).
3) And finally, here is some wailing and gnashing of teeth from The Moonie Times as another pillar of Bushco malfeasance falls to the ground, as it were…
The Obama administration promised increased transparency in government but has rolled back rules proposed by the Bush administration that expanded the financial disclosure statements required of labor unions and their leaders.
Since President Obama took office, the Labor Department has rescinded or delayed three sets of rules proposed by the George W. Bush administration that would have required unions and their leaders to more specifically detail their finances, according to a review of records by The Washington Times.
The rules were rolled back while the Obama administration was seeking more stringent regulation of corporate America, including banks, insurance companies, health care providers and publicly traded companies.
The proposed Bush rules would have required labor unions to identify from whom they were buying and selling assets, forced union leaders and employees to file more detailed conflict-of-interest forms, and required unions to reveal the finances of hundreds of so-called labor trusts - largely unregulated entities set up to provide benefits for members.
Former Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao, one of the architects of the expanded Bush rules, said the Obama administration is "making a mockery of the regulations" and is giving "preferential treatment" to the unions.
The only "mockery" here is the eight-year battle waged by Mrs. Mitch McConnell (call her that and then watch her pitch a fit) as Labor Secretary against working men and women in this country, seeing as how those are the people she should have represented instead of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and their pals; as noted here (with much more on Puffy Chao here)…
While the new regulations could help union members deal with corruption, they appear to be intended to undermine a union's ability to act politically. This is particularly troubling in light of the spate of political attacks on workers and unions in recent years.
Forcing unions to report what percentage of staff time and total expenditures are made for political action and lobbying will make it easier to allege that unions which engage in vigorous efforts to elect pro-union candidates or support pro-worker initiatives have violated campaign finance restrictions.
Additionally, the breakdown of expenditures may result in more agency fee payers, those who choose to pay only that portion of dues used for collective bargaining purposes, demanding a larger share of their money back.
Memo to The Dragon Lady – elections have consequences.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
...and to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the release of "Déjà Vu" by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, here are David Crosby and Stephen Stills from '91 performing the title track (with Essra Mohawk standing in for Graham Nash - the audio is good, but it could have been better).
(And I also posted here.)
1) Leave it to Fix Noise to keep its figurative finger on the pulse of America’s news heartbeat (or whatever – here, and yes, that is snark)…
If you want to know just what your kids are learning from their history books, all you have to do is apply the "Reagan test," says Professor Larry Schweikart.
As the Texas textbook battle continues to simmer, Schweikart says the first thing he does to determine whether a book is politically slanted is to go to any section discussing President Ronald Reagan. What you'll find there, he says, will tell you everything you need to know, he says.
Schweikart says the majority of books he’s examined credit former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev with ending the Cold War, and not Reagan. That's “a joke,” Schweikart says. “I lived through the Reagan years, I remember.”
You want to hear a joke, Professor Schweikart? Check this out, in which former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said that giving Reagan credit for ending the cold war is like giving credit for the sunrise to the rooster’s cackle (Ooooh, snap!). And I know it’s true, because I “lived through the Reagan years” too.
And Think Progress tells us here that the Texas Education Agency (the people in charge of the textbooks) actually took issue with Fix Noise for the latter’s “fear mongering.”
Still, though, the Texas Board of Education (dominated by Repugs, of course) is bound to come up with some real humdingers in those books I’m sure, particularly since coverage of Ted Kennedy and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is apparently going to be optional.
Well, in keeping with this prior post, allow me to provide more fun facts about perhaps the reddest of the red states…
- The “Anahuac Disturbances” were noteworthy because it marked the initial news appearance of George W. Bush; he was mauled in a kegger fight between two rival state high school football teams.
- The “yellow rose of Texas” gained popularity when it was presented by Mexican immigrants crossing over the border to the US.
- Dallas’s Love Field airport was named after Kurt Cobain’s widow.
- Sammy Sosa of the Texas Rangers played all nine positions the year the team won the World Series in 1990.
- Molly Ivins was elected governor of Texas and served for 40 years; she stepped down from office in 1995.
I said it before and I’ll say it again – please secede already.
Update 3/12/10: I guess it was because of that icky sex with Sally Hemings, huh...morons (here).
2) And speaking of education, Armstrong Williams of The Hill is back with more right-wing dreck (here)…
Inner cities…are characterized by less-educated, lower-earning and less education-minded folks who don’t provide as much of a tax base for better-funded schools, not to mention the fact that they demand less of their teachers and even less of their children in terms of school performance.
Welcome to the Armstrong Williams Demagogic Generalization Festival, my fellow prisoners.
Oh, and by the way, I think the following itsy bitsy teenie weenie little fact about Williams should be noted from here, as long as we’re talking about education…
Seeking to build support among black families for its education reform law, the Bush administration paid a prominent black pundit $240,000 to promote the law on his nationally syndicated television show and to urge other black journalists to do the same.
The campaign, part of an effort to promote No Child Left Behind (NCLB), required commentator Armstrong Williams "to regularly comment on NCLB during the course of his broadcasts," and to interview Education Secretary Rod Paige for TV and radio spots that aired during the show in 2004.
Williams said Thursday he understands that critics could find the arrangement unethical, but "I wanted to do it because it's something I believe in."
Hell, I “believe” in making a lot of money too, but that doesn’t mean I’d pretend to be impartial while I was trying to persuade people to come around to my point of view.
3) And finally, Daniel Henninger of the Murdoch Street Journal, opining on health care reform (yes, this issue will eventually be resolved one way or the other someday), told us the following from here (on the matter of trying to pass reform with 51 votes in the Senate – sort of tangentially related to Texas in that he compares Obama to LBJ)…
“Reconciliation could damage the institution of the Senate for years.”
As Jamison Foser of Media Matters tells us here, all we heard from the people with initials for names who bring us the news was the sound of crickets when the Repugs ran the show and did the same thing not too long ago, only a whole lot more times than the Democrats plan to do (and here is another moment of pundit piffle from Henninger).
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
(And oh yeah, I was stuck in a hospital waiting room yesterday and watched the news loop about the guy whose Prius went out of control and Letterman's blackmailer, and I would call it about 20 instances of the same footage for each story. Nothing on Afghanistan, though.)
Update: Some utterly predictable spin here...
Tuesday, March 09, 2010
...and today is the 100th birthday of composer Samuel Barber; here is his most famous work performed on September 15, 2001.
Given what happened to this man, I think that's in very poor taste (sorry it took a few days to get to this).
(Also, more flaky blogging for awhile...)
Monday, March 08, 2010
And if you want to gauge the depth of the moral bankruptcy of our corporate media, consider that Bill Kristol is still treated seriously in their circles. This, let's not forget, is the guy who not only led the pundit drumbeat for Iraq War II louder than anyone else with the possible exception of Little Tommy Friedman, but also led the effort to scuttle health care reform in the '90s. Their complicity in not treating Kristol like the moral leper that he is speaks volumes...
Update 3/9/10: Related posts are here and here (hat tip to Atrios for both).
...and happy 65th birthday to Micky Dolenz of The Monkees, the novelty act that, for a time, became an actual band (don't know if they're still touring anywhere or not).
(And I also posted here…also, Halperin’s blog is referenced in the post title.)
Thank goodness we have Mark Halperin to warn us when our president isn’t performing as expected by our political-media-industrial complex.
Here, he tells us that President Obama is “making the same mistakes as Bush,” what with Number 44’s policies on Wall Street and Afghanistan “alienating the left.” In response, I am providing this link to a Quinnipiac poll from January which more or less splits Obama’s approval at 50-50 or 60-40 across the board (which, to me, means that there is ample ebb and flow out there when it comes to public opinion that no one demographic holds an edge…I’d like to think that Halperin’s mythical “left” could decisively sway an electoral outcome this cycle, but I know better).
So how exactly is President Obama acting like Dubya, according to Halperin? Does the intrepid Time commentator draw a sadly apt comparison between Number 43 and Obama’s waffling on the issue of whether or not to try accused terrorists in civilian courts?
Yep, you guessed it – Halperin gives us a bunch of “conventional wisdom” navel gazing instead…
No Chief Economic Spokesperson. Quick: Name all three of Bush's Treasury Secretaries. Hard to do, isn't it? Like Bush, Obama has failed to install an economics commander in chief who can serve as the public face and the in-house honcho of the Administration's financial team.
Halperin is worried about “the public face” of Obama economic policy? Gee, then, I guess all of those Capitol Hill hearings involving Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner were a figment of my imagination (as well as those involving Bushco Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson…and to answer the trivia question, the other two Bushies Halperin asks about here are Paul O’Neill and John “Snidely” Snow).
Again, Halperin misses a chance to draw the line between Geithner and Paulson, two Goldman Sachs refugees who have ensured the rather pathetic equivalency between the two administrations when it comes to failing to hold to account the rapacious pirates on Wall Street who have very nearly led our economy to ruin (And Obama needs “a Robert Rubin figure”? As in, the deregulation architect who set the dominos falling in the first place, with Alan Greenspan’s approval? Are you kidding me??).
Halperin has some other nonsense to impart to us, such as Obama and Captain Clueless both “failing to empower cabinet members on domestic policy” (kind of hard to do that when the “Party of No” seeks to scuttle their initiatives and block appointment of administration officials) and “tying his administration’s fate too closely to his party’s congressional leadership” (uh…and how exactly is Obama supposed to avoid that when Congress is responsible for passing the legislation?).
I will give Halperin a little bit of an acknowledgement on one point, though, and that is “falling to integrate policy, politics and communication.” Message discipline has been a problem for this administration lately on some issues (whether or not to support a public option, whether or not John Yoo and Jay Bybee could be held criminally liable for authorizing torture, the previously mentioned terror trial question, etc.).
However, to a certain extent, I think that is a “boulder of Sisyphus” kind of insoluble task, particularly in our current anti-incumbency climate. There are a multitude of communication tools available for Obama, and I think he has utilized them effectively. But when you have a base in need of re-energization (word?) in no small part due to Repug congressional obstruction (and an American voting public with a notoriously short attention span), as well as a Dem Senate leadership that apparently believes progress is temporarily mollifying GOP obstruction in the name of the Beltway’s blessed notion of “bipartisanship,” all of these collectively are ingredients that spell trouble (though – and I hasten to emphasize this – not certain doom in and of themselves).
Really, though, what else could we expect from Halperin, seeing as how he was the guy who gave us this?
Sunday, March 07, 2010
Also, memo to self - see "The Hurt Locker" ASAP.
From what I can see, the rest of the show hasn't been anywhere near as humorous as Neil Patrick Harris's double-entendre-filled musiclal number to open the program. It's a shame that the hosts can't make too many topical references or give speeches promoting thier causes (yes, I think some of that is good) because no one will understand them and/or conservatives will get pissed off, so what passes for humor are remarks by Steve Martin and others about how vain they all are (that was amusing a few years ago, but it's merely tiresome now). Is someone going to send Ben Stiller a memo telling them that his Oscar costumes aren't funny? Nice job on the tribute to John Hughes, by the way. And yes, I know the technical awards are boring, but the winners just get a group picture and no individual mention? And finally, nice job to forget Patrick McGoohan in the "In Memoriam" segment (gee, "All Night Long"? "Ice Station Zebra"? "Mary, Queen Of Scots"? "Braveheart"? Any of those titles ring a bell?).