Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday Mashup (1/28/11)

  • So, let’s see what the kiddies in charge of the U.S. House were up to last week, OK? (here – the Senate was still trying to figure out its rules for the upcoming session I believe)…


    Health-care repeal. Voting 245-189, the House passed a Republican bill (HR 2) to repeal the health-care overhaul signed into law March 23 by President Obama. All 242 GOP House members voted to repeal the law. All but three of the 192 Democrats who voted were opposed to repeal. The bill is expected to die in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

    A yes vote was to repeal the health-care law.

    Voting yes: Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Michael Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Pat Meehan (R., Pa.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), Jon Runyan (R., N.J.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

    Voting no: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), John Carney (D., Del.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), and Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.).
    Oh, and speaking of health care, as noted here…

    A new report on the impact of the health care reform law shows that “individuals and families purchasing coverage through the exchanges in 2014 will save 14-20 percent over what coverage would cost them if the law had never been enacted.”
    By the way, based on this, it seems that Mikey The Beloved slipped on the ice and suffered a widdle boo boo (awwww…happily for him, he doesn’t have to worry about being denied for a “pre-existing condition,” which in his case would be egomania, demagoguery, political cowardice, or any and all of the above).

    Congressional health care. Voting 185-245, the House defeated a Democratic bid to prevent lawmakers from keeping their congressional health insurance if they repeal the new health-care law for their constituents. Under this motion to HR 2 (above), repeal could not occur until a majority of members in both chambers were dismissed from the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

    Sponsor Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.) said: "Members who support the repeal should live with its consequences."

    A yes vote backed the motion.

    Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Carney, Fattah, Holden, and Schwartz.

    Voting no: Dent, Gerlach, Fitzpatrick, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, and Smith.
    Bloody stinking cowards, the whole, foul Repug lot of them (wonder if Preston and Steve would still cheer Runyan after disgusting votes like this one – they probably would, now that I think of it...and by the way, on a somewhat unrelated matter, I give you this "Thumbs Down" citation from the Courier Times against the latest Repug power grab, an attempt to reduce Democratic Party member representation on committees, with the blessings of The Orange One and that sleazy weasel Cantor of course) (Update: Never mind, my bad.).

    Health-law replacement. Voting 253-175, the House directed four of its committees to draft a health-care law to replace the one Republicans seek to repeal with HR 2 (above). The measure (H Res 9) sets no deadlines for the panels to report back to the full House.

    A yes vote backed the resolution.

    Voting yes: Dent, Gerlach, Fitzpatrick, Holden, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, and Smith.

    Voting no: Andrews, Brady, Carney, Fattah, and Schwartz.
    Sooo…they vote to repeal “Obamacare,” but set no deadline for reporting back with a plan of their own?


    Medicare fix. Voting 428-1, the House amended H Res 9 (above) to require the Republicans' proposed new health-care law to permanently change the outdated formula for paying doctors for their treatment of Medicare patients. Such a fix is expected to cost $250 billion or more over 10 years. The two parties have disagreed in recent years over how to pay that cost.

    A yes vote backed the amendment.

    Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Carney, Dent, Fattah, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, Schwartz, and Smith.
    Which is only appropriate since, as noted here, the Repugs created the problem to begin with in 1997 (and for the record, the one "No" vote was Dem Rep John Conyers of Michigan; at this moment, I don't know why).

    Government printing office. Voting 399-0, the House passed a bill (HR 292) to end the practice of the Government Printing Office providing members of Congress with paper copies of each bill or resolution introduced in their chamber. Members and staff would continue to rely on electronic copies.

    A yes vote was to pass the bill.

    Voting yes: Andrews, Carney, Dent, Fattah, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Meehan, Pitts, Runyan, Schwartz, and Smith.

    Not voting: Brady and Holden.
    This week, the House voted on whether to cut nonsecurity spending in the current fiscal year, and it will take up a bill ending the system of voluntary taxpayer check-offs to fund presidential campaigns. The Senate debated changes in filibuster rules (and based on this, all three proposals were defeated…pathetic).

  • Next, Christine Flowers advocated for the sainthood of Pope John Paul II here, and of course, spewed her sneering contempt of anyone disagreeing with her every chance she got.

    I’m hardly a theologian, so I can’t make any kind of case for denying John Paul II’s sainthood. He was charismatic of course (I still vividly recall his 1978 visit to Philadelphia), and a man of courage, surviving World War II and playing no small part in the rise of the Solidarity workers union in Poland, which started a ripple that tuned into a tidal wave that ultimately washed away Soviet-style communism.

    However (and you just knew I’d take a contrary position at some point), as noted here…

    In his Church policies, John Paul II was, even from the standpoint of the extremely conservative doctrines of the Catholic Church, a reactionary. He set out to reverse the spirit, if not entirely the letter, of the reforms initiated by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.

    First, there is his cult of the Madonna and the saints. With 473 beatifications, he has created more than twice as many new saints as his predecessors over the preceding 400 years.

    The encyclical Evangelium Vitae, which dictates sexual mores, rejects not only abortion, but also any form of contraception. Every sexual act not aimed at reproduction is considered to be immoral. Even condoms are condemned—a policy that is all the more socially destructive and inhumane given the devastating AIDS epidemic in Africa and many other parts of the world. In Germany, against strong resistance by bishops and Church members, the pope insisted that the Church withdraw from committees that advise pregnant women as part of the country’s framework for legal abortion.

    The conservative personnel policy of the pope has also repeatedly led to conflicts. He sparked controversy by imposing conservative bishops on several dioceses, e.g., Wolfgang Haas in Chur, Joachim Meisner in Cologne, Hans Hermann Gröer in Vienna, and Kurt Krenn in St. Pölten. Critical theologians such as Leonardo Boff, Eugen Drewermann, Hans Küng and Tissa Balasuriya have been gagged with prohibitions banning them from publishing their works and preventing them from teaching.

    The Swiss theologian Hans Küng, who was banned from teaching in the Church following an article in 1980 critical of the pope, describes the internal atmosphere of the Church and the role of John Paul II as follows: “[The pope is] the authority behind an inflationary number of beatifications, who, at the same time, with dictatorial power directs his inquisition against unpopular theologians, priests, monks and bishops; above all, believers distinguished by critical thinking and energetic reform are persecuted in inquisitorial fashion. Just as Pius XII persecuted the most important theologians of his time (Chenu, Congar, de Lubac, Rahner, Teilhard de Chardin), so too has John Paul II (and his grand inquisitor Ratzinger) persecuted Schillebeeckx, Balasuriya, Boff, Bulányi, Curran as well as Bishop Gaillot (Evreux) and Archbishop Hunthausen (Seattle). The consequence: a Church of surveillance, in which denunciation, fear and lack of liberty are widespread. The bishops regard themselves as Roman governors instead of the servants of churchgoers, the theologians write in a conformist manner—or not at all.”
    And oh yes, speaking of Pope Benny, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, promoted by John Paul II (here)…

    One of the most blatant examples of Ratzinger’s intervention into the political affairs of a country was his role in the 2004 US presidential election. A number of American Catholic bishops publicly declared in the run-up to the election that they would deny Holy Communion to Democratic candidate John Kerry, a Catholic, because of his pro-choice stance on abortion rights. Their intervention, a brazen violation of the secular foundations of the US Constitution, was tantamount to a religious injunction to Catholics to vote for George W. Bush.

    In June 2004, Ratzinger issued a statement of guidance to US bishops that, in effect, gave the Vatican’s seal of approval to Church officials who were using the abortion issue to discourage a vote for the Democratic candidate. In his missive to the bishop of Washington DC, Ratzinger wrote: “A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia.”

    In an obvious reference to Kerry, Ratzinger declared that a “Catholic politician consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws” should be denied Communion.

    Since the Vatican officially opposed capital punishment and had denounced the US invasion of Iraq, Ratzinger was obliged to resort to casuistry to justify placing the Church’s onus on Kerry rather than Bush, who had not only led the unprovoked attack on Iraq, but who, as governor of Texas, had approved more than 140 executions. “Not all ... issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia,” he wrote. “There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not ... with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

    The timing of Ratzinger’s statement, coming just a few months before the elections, was not coincidental. A week before Ratzinger’s statement, Bush visited the Vatican. According to the National Catholic Reporter, Bush complained to Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican secretary of state, that “not all the American bishops are with me”. He asked the Church to pressure bishops in the US to take a more open stance on cultural issues such as abortion and gay marriage.

    Ratzinger’s remarks made clear the Church’s position: anyone voting for Kerry could be adjudged to be in “formal cooperation with evil”. His intervention helped elevate Bush’s support among Catholic voters from 46 percent in 2000 to 52 percent in 2004.
    Oh, and by the way, Christine, let’s let some more time pass concerning Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and actor Michael Douglas before we refer to their recoveries as “miracles,” shall we? It’s a lot less difficult to find your way back to good health when you have the benefit of a public profile and the income and personal means that usually comes with it.

  • Finally, as noted here, today marks the 25th anniversary of the Challenger disaster in which seven astronauts, including teacher Christa McAuliffe, lost their lives.

    This article, based on the reporting of authors Malcolm McConnell and Joseph Trento, tells us about the political pressures affecting NASA, including the following anecdote (and the snark isn’t mine, by the way)…

    …in 1983, when Sally Ride became the first American woman in orbit, (first lady) Nancy Reagan flipped out because Jane Fonda was present for the launch. Michael Deaver, then at the White House, called NASA Administrator James Beggs on the carpet. When Beggs explained that civilian launches are open to the public, Deaver demanded that the NASA "flak" man who had invited Fonda to sit in the VIP section be fired.

    Beggs, NASA administrator from the beginning of the Reagan administration until two months before the Challenger disaster, has been all but forgotten in most accounts of the tragedy, because he was not in charge on the day the explosion occurred. Neither McConnell nor Trento make this superficial mistake, for the agency which sent Challenger to its fate is a perfect reflection of Beggs’ persona--rigid, remote, concerned first and foremost with budget politics.

    …Beggs changed the system so that the center directors reported to his deputy, who then reported to Beggs. Experience has shown that this formula is 100 percent guaranteed to prevent disagreeable news from reaching the desk of the boss--which it did in the case of growing concern over the reliability of the shuttle's solid-rocket boosters.

    This procedural change became a double fiasco in 1985 when that warm, wonderful human being, Donald Regan (!), insisted Beggs accept William Graham as his deputy. Graham, a nuclear-weapons specialist, had no experience in space issues or in management; his primary qualification was connections with the fruitcake wing of Ronald Reagan's California crowd. In November 1985, Beggs was indicted on charges of procurement fraud involving his previous job as an executive of that warm, wonderful corporation, General Dynamics. Beggs took a leave of absence, making Graham acting NASA Administrator. Graham was holding the reins when Challenger exploded.
    This article tells us how Lawrence Mulloy, project director of the solid-rocket booster portion of the Challenger ship, uttered the now-infamous question to Morton-Thiokol engineers who tried to prevent the launch because of justifiable-as-it-turned-out concerns over the O-rings separating the boosters: “My God, Thiokol, when do you want me to launch? Next April?”

    Of course, as we were to find out later, not only did Challenger take off during the coldest day on record for such a launch, but the ship also carried the heaviest payload to date (48,000 pounds, still below the maximum of 65,000 pounds the ship was supposed to handle). Also, the original launch was planned for Super Bowl Sunday two days previously, but it was delayed until that Tuesday (in which Reagan planned to say something about it during the State of the Union address).

    I’ll resist saying anything else of an accusatory nature at this point, even though it’s kind of tough I’ll admit, and instead merely link here to a tribute from the NASA site to the Challenger crew, as well as that of the Columbia shuttle disaster which took place nearly eight years ago, as well as the Apollo 1 fire that claimed the lives of astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee in January 1967 (and this gives us a bit of information on how space exploration has benefited our lives, providing more reasons why our fallen heroes should be honored on this and every day).
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